(Jan 31, 1892 - Oct 10, 1964)
Born to Jewish parents in New York City, of Russian immigrants, he was best known for his bugged out eyes. He was billed "Banjo Eyes"
I have heard and seen Cantor and he is another one guy that I don't get. He is amusing enough and sings adequately and while I enjoyed listening to him and I never could grasp the popularity of him.
His family name was Kantrowitz, but like most Jewish entertainers of the time he changed it to avoid sounding too ethnic. He started out as a teen in local theatres and by 1907 he was a top named headliner in vaudeville. Like most other vaudevillians Cantor performed in blackface. He was among the first to take advantage of record albums in 1917 was the number one performer in that medium. He recorded songs, drama and comedy routines.
The year 1929 holds special meaning for Cantor who by then was one of the richest entertainers in America, well worth over ten million dollars. The stock market crash wiped him out. It didn't just leave him penniless it left him deeply in debt. Knowing the pains of poverty Cantor seized on the opportunity to go to Hollywood and was among the first to make films and he also starred in his own radio show.
Soon he had recovered not only financially but was again one of the biggest entertainers in the nation and the highest paid radio star at the time. He became known for his family, his wife Ida and his five children all of whom were girls. He often appeared on radio shows like Jack Benny and Burns And Allen where he tried to marry them off.
Cantor also had a moderately successful show on TV. It proved controversial when he booked Sammy Davis Jr on the show and embraced him after a song. NBC immediately threatened to pull the show, while Cantor's answer was to book Davis again on his show. He left the show in 1954 due to ill health, having suffered a heart attack in 1954.
He died in 1964 of a heart attack