Cliff Edwards

Cliff Edwards ( born June 14, 1895 in Hannibal, Missouri, † July 17, 1971 in Hollywood, California), many people also by his stage name " Ukelele Ike ", was an American singer, vaudeville star, film actor and voice actor. He is one of the pioneers of scat singing. For Disney fans he is best known as the voice of the character Jiminy Cricket, " When a star in gloomy night " made ​​famous from the movie Pinocchio and thus as a singer of the song. He also spoke Jim Crow from Dumbo.


Early years

Cliff Edwards was born in 1895 in Hannibal, Missouri. At 14, he left the school there and traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked as a singer in various saloons. Since many of these institutions no piano or only one could have in poor condition, he learned ukulele - a kind of guitar - playing. The reason for choosing this instrument is the fact that it was the cheapest at the time, which you could buy in the established music business. The stage name " Ukelele Ike" he received because of a club owner, who Cliffs real name could not remember. From then on he called himself during performances themselves that way.

Later, Edwards played a long time in vaudeville. His breakthrough finally ended in 1918 Arsonia Cafe in Chicago, Illinois, where he introduced together with the pianist of the club, Bob Carleton, a tune called Ja-Da. The new piece of music was enthusiastically received by the audience, and the notes sold successfully. Thanks to the then owner of Vaudeville, Joe Frisco, Cliff had the opportunity to play along with a play that was listed in the " Palace " of New York, the most famous vaudeville theater of that time. Later he participated in the Ziegfeld Follies, a series of productions on Broadway.

In 1919, Edwards on his first record. Three years later, in 1922, he was busy working on a collection of jazz songs. His success made the music publishing Pathé Records attentive to him, with whom he signed a contract in the following year. In company he quickly became one of the most important and most famous singers of the 1920s, during which he also appeared again in several Broadway shows. More than anyone Edwards was in the Tin Pan Alley, the street in which the most important publishers were resident at the time the musical notes of the ukulele have been made to the standardized written notes.

During an appearance at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California, he fell on Irving Thalberg, the production manager of the film studio Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer ( MGM). He offered Edwards a place as an actor, and after several appearances in short films, this was world famous for his performance in Singin 'in the Rain. Overall, Cliff Edwards appeared in 33 movies, mostly musicals for MGM, including Marianne, Good News, Sidewalks of New York, George White's Scandals and George White's Scandals in 1935. At the same time, he worked regularly for the radio station Columbia Broadcasting System ( CBS), in which he had his own show since 1932, and has continued as a singer on the go.

Edwards was never particularly carefully handled at that time with his money he had earned in the economic boom of the 1920s. When in 1929 the stock market collapsed and the "Great Depression" began, he continued to work though, but never reached the status he held before. The majority of his money he lost by alimony payments to various women and other liabilities. During the 1930s and early 1940s, he enlisted as a whole four times to bankrupt.

Working at Disney

In 1940 Edwards of Walt Disney the offer, as voice actors in his latest film, Pinocchio participate. Disney had already seen some performances by the singer, including his vocal part in Gone with the Wind, where he played a dying soldier. In addition, Walt had heard some of the records of " Ukelele Ike", and was sure that his voice is perfect for the song " When a star in gloomy night " would be appropriate. Edwards agreed, and shortly thereafter traveled to the studios.

On the set developed very soon a friendship between him - said, and the twelve -year-old Dickie Jones, the Pinocchio - as spokesman for the character Jiminy Cricket. Often, the two sat together and discussed current scenes and how to behave at this moment. On some days, Cliff Edwards took his ukulele to work and played it, " When a star in gloomy night ". A special habit of him was that he was wearing the same hat all day.

A year later, he worked for the second time as a dubbing of a Disney movie. He took over the role of Jim Crow (or Jim Crow in the original) in the movie Dumbo. Ward Kimball, one of the main animators in this work, later told this paper that the crows themselves would never work as well, if Edwards had not had a flair for the right timing. His last work on a Walt Disney movie was Cheerful, Free, fun, in which he again lent his voice to Jiminy Cricket.

In the 1950s, Cliff returned to Disney, but this time he worked for television, specifically for the Mickey Mouse Club. There he had a number of appearances and continue saying the character Jiminy Cricket in the several television appearances, in which warned of dangers in everyday life. For his achievements as a voice actor, he was finally honored posthumously in 2000 with the title of " Disney Legend ."

Later years

Edwards remained faithful to the radio for a long time and had 1932-1946 several different radio shows. When, however, his popularity waned due to poor headlines during the Great Depression, he was replaced by other singers such as Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo or Rudy Vallee. Instead he found three years later on TV, where he, together with the already mentioned appearances in the Mickey Mouse Club also has its own show, The Cliff Edwards Show received. The show was three days a week (Monday, Thursday and Friday evenings ) broadcast by the CBS television network. Thus developed around 75 episodes between 23 May and 1 December.

The last years of his life Edwards largely withdrawn in a home for unemployed actors. At times, he stayed on the grounds of the Walt Disney Studios, hoping to work as a voice actor. Or he met different people and told them over lunch about his experiences in vaudeville. Shortly before his death he lived in a hospital in Hollywood, where he peacefully passed away on July 17, 1971. Since no one wanted to pay for his funeral, we originally planned it to pass medical examinations at the University of California, Los Angeles. But as the Walt Disney Productions learned of it, the company took over the body, and paid for a funeral.


The author Will Friedwald looks Cliff Edwards as one of the pioneers in the use of scat singing:

"If he was not the inventor of this technology, he is surely the first, made the Scat a cornerstone of his style. [ ... ] At the very beginning of his recording career takes Edwards today Bobby McFerrin anticipated by all alone represents a whole band: singer, brass solo and accompanying group. His very first record, James P. Johnson's " Old- Fashioned Love", he runs with scat phrases, which could have played on a Bessie Smith - plate trumpeter Joe Smith, and between two Textchorusse he builds a scat solo instead of a instrumental Solos one. In this recording vo 1923 ( Pathé ) he scats only the melody, but until 1924 he was transferred to interpret completely improvised choruses, and the breaks that he devised for Gershwin's " Fascinatin ' Rhythm' " ( Pathé ), fit better to the title as Gershwin's own. "

" Cliff Edwards stood with his jazz -influenced singing more on the edge and was regarded by his film roles rather than comedy, usually with the role of " best friend " of the hero or his simple-minded companions. Especially his special humor made ​​him appear old-fashioned at that time; therefore he was no good to a personality (such as Bing Crosby ), which examined the emerging entertainment industry for their stars. "

Filmography (selection)