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Eddie Cantor

CANTOR, EDDIE (1892–1964), U.S. comedian and vaudeville performer. Cantor was born Isidor Iskowitch on New York City's Lower East Side. In 1907 he won a music-hall amateur contest, and then began touring with a comedy blackface act. He was eventually booked into major vaudeville circuits and set records for long runs at all the major American variety houses. He toured the music halls of Europe and was given top billing in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917, 1918, and 1919. In 1923 he starred in the musical Kid Boots, which ran for three years.

After the depression, Cantor entered films and worked for the major studios until 1940. Among his most popular films were The Kid From Spain, 1933, Roman Scandals, 1934, and Ali Baba Goes to Town, 1937. On the radio, songs associated with him were immediate hits. He raised large sums for Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and other Jewish causes. He also aided Christian and non-denominational philanthropies, especially the March of Dimes. He was a founder and president of the Screen Actors' Guild and the Jewish Theatrical Guild. In 1964 he was awarded a medal by President Johnson for his services to the United States and humanity. He published his autobiographies, My Life is in Your Hands (1928; rev. ed. 1932), Take my Life (1956), The Way I See It (1959), and a book of reminiscences, As I Remember Them (1963).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.