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George Raft and Desi Arnaz Sr. attend Rosary Mass for Jimmy Durante
George Raft (L) and Desi Arnaz Sr. arrive at the Good Shepherd Church for a Rosary Mass for Jimmy Durante who died on January 29, 1980 of a prolonged lung ailment at the age of 86. The photographers were not allowed inside the church, so only arrival and departure pictures were allowed of the celebrities. (UPI Photo/Glenn Waggner/Files)
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James Francis "Jimmy" Durante (February 10, 1893 – January 29, 1980) was an American singer, pianist, comedian and actor. His distinctive clipped gravelly speech, comic language butchery, jazz-influenced songs, and large nose helped make him one of America's most familiar and popular personalities of the 1920s through the 1970s. His jokes about his nose included referring to it as a "Schnozzola", and the word became his nickname.

Durante was born on the Lower East Side of New York, the youngest of four children born to immigrants from Salerno, Italy, Bartolomeo Durante, and his mail order bride Rosa, the sister of a woman who lived in the same boarding house. Jimmy Durante served as an altar boy at Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church, known as the Actor's Chapel.

Durante dropped out of school in eighth grade to become a full-time ragtime pianist. He first played with his cousin, whose name was also "Jimmy Durante." It was a family act, but he was too professional for his cousin. He continued working the city's piano bar circuit and earned the nickname "Ragtime Jimmy," before he joined one of the first recognizable jazz bands in New York, the Original New Orleans Jazz Band. Durante was the only member not from New Orleans. His routine of breaking into a song to deliver a joke, with band or orchestra chord punctuation after each line, became a Durante trademark. In 1920, the group was renamed Jimmy Durante's Jazz Band.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Jimmy Durante."