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Cliff Edwards: From Success to Failure

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The role of acting, singing, and performing requires a lot of effort, dedication, and sacrifice, especially to be the best-known artist of a specific period of time. In this regard, Cliff Edwards, an American singer and musician, knew how to catch people’s attention because of his substantial popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s. Besides, he also imitated voices for animated cartoons.

He was born in Hannibal, Missouri. After leaving school at 14 years old and moving to St.Louis, Missouri, he started singing in saloons. Due to the good condition of most of the pianos, he decided to play “ukulele” to work as if it were an accompanist. The curious aspect about him is that he was known as “Ukelele Ike” because once someone could not recall his name. In 1918 at the Arsonia Café in Chicago, Illinois, he reached his first big hit with the tune, “Ja Da” by Carleton and himself. The opportunity of working with Joe Frisco to be part of his act and perform at The Palace in New York, a prestigious theater in Vaudeville, and then in the Ziegfeld Follies.

Edwards appeared in various Broadway shows since he is one of the most famous singers of the decade. While playing at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, California, the film producer and director Irving Thalberg having Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wanted Edwards to appear in early sound movies. The main advantage for Edwards after performing these short films is that he was one of the stars in the Hollywood Revue of 1929. Along 1933, he would make a total of 33 films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Although Edwards already had a consolidated career, the Great Depression really affected his economy, leading him to bankruptcy several times during the 30s and 40s. In the same way, his popularity diminished as many people preferred other styles such as Russ Columbo, Bing Crosby, and Rudy Vallee. The end of his professional career came about when he had no means to survive and when he was hanging around the Walt Disney Studios to be given food.

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