Ameche, Don

Ameche, Don
▪ 1994

      (DOMINIC FELIX AMICI), U.S. actor (b. May 31, 1908, Kenosha, Wis.—d. Dec. 6, 1993, Scottsdale, Ariz.), was a versatile performer who was at home on radio, on television, and in films but was best remembered for two standout motion-picture roles; his performance in the title role in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939) was so riveting that Ameche became a byword for telephone, and his comedic interpretation of a septuagenarian who exhibited his alien-aided rejuvenation by break dancing in Cocoon (1985) earned him an Academy Award for best supporting actor. Even so, critics seemed to be most impressed with Ameche's light-comedy touches in Heaven Can Wait (1943), in which he portrayed a rakish hero. After attending Columbia (now Loras) College in Dubuque, Iowa, Ameche studied law before launching (1930) a radio career in Chicago. He starred on such shows as "The First Nighter," "Grand Hotel," and "The Chase & Sanborn Hour" and with Frances Langford appeared as the Bickersons, an irrepressibly feuding couple. Ameche, who sported a pencil-thin mustache, exuded a suave sophistication and charm, which made him perfectly suited to roles as a bon vivant. Ameche appeared in Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), Midnight (1939), and The Three Musketeers (1939) before moving to television and starring as the ringmaster (1961-65) for "International Showtime." Film roles were scarce until he made a triumphant return in Trading Places (1983) as a ruthless millionaire. Ameche also appeared in Cocoon: The Return (1988), Oscar (1991), and Folks! (1992).

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