(born Dominic Felix Amici
; May 31 1908
– December 6 1993
) was an American actor.
Ameche was born in Kenosha
, the son of Barbara, who was of Irish
descent, and Felix Ameche, an immigrant from Italy
whose original surname was "Amici." He had two brothers, Burt and Jim
, and two sisters, Anne and Mary Jane.
Vaudeville and films
Ameche began his career in vaudeville
with Texas Guinan
, until Guinan dropped him from the act, dismissing him as, "too stiff. He made his film debut in 1935 and by the late 1930s, he had established himself as a leading actor in Hollywood
. He appeared in such films as Alexander's Ragtime Band
(1938), as the title character
in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell
(1939), It led to the use of the word, "ameche," as slang for telephone in common catchphrases
, as noted by Mike Kilen in the Iowa City Gazette
(December 8, 1993): "The film prompted a generation to call people to the telephone with the phrase: 'You're wanted on the Ameche.' Another highlight was co-starring with Gene Tierney
in Ernest Lubitch's Heaven Can Wait
which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture
Radio and television
Ameche was a major radio
star, heard on such shows as Empire Builders
, The First Nighter Program
, Family Theater
and the Betty and Bob
soap opera. Following his appearances as announcer and sketch participant on The Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy Show
, he achieved memorable success during the late 1940s playing opposite Frances Langford
in The Bickersons
, the Philip Rapp
radio comedy series about a combative married couple. It began on NBC
in 1946, moving to CBS
the following year.
Ameche also enjoyed a substantial Broadway career, with roles in Silk Stockings, Goldilocks, Holiday for Lovers, Henry, Sweet Henry and Our Town.
Between 1961 and 1965, Ameche sat in the grandstand of a different European resident circus each week to serve as host/commentator on International Showtime on NBC television. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ameche directed the NBC television drama series Julia, starring Diahann Carroll.
After the release of two 1970 comedies, The Boatniks and Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?, Ameche was absent from theatrical films for the next 13 years. His only appearance in cinema during that time was in F For Fake, Orson Welles' documentary on hoaxes, when 20th Century-Fox mistakenly sent Welles newsreel footage of Ameche misidentified as footage of Howard Hughes.
Ameche and fellow veteran actor Ralph Bellamy were eventually cast in John Landis' Trading Places in 1983, playing rich brothers intent on ruining an innocent man for the sake of a one-dollar bet. In an interview some years later on Larry King Live, co-star Jamie Lee Curtis said that Ameche, a proper old-school actor, went to everyone on the set ahead of time to apologize when he was called to say the "n-word" in the film. The film's success and their comedic performances brought them both back into the Hollywood limelight. Ameche's next role, in Cocoon (1985), won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He continued working for the rest of his life, including in the sequel, Cocoon: The Return. His last films were Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) and Corrina, Corrina (1994), completed only days before his death.
For his contribution to radio, Ameche received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6313 Hollywood Boulevard and a second star at 6101 Hollywood Boulevard for his television work.
Ameche was married to Honore Prendergast from 1932 until her death in 1986. They had six children. One, Ron Ameche, owned the restaurant "Ameche's Pumpernickel" in Coralville, Iowa
. Ameche's younger brother Jim Ameche
, was also an actor in radio and films.
Ameche died on December 6, 1993, of prostate cancer. He was buried at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery, also known as St. Philomena's Cemetery, in Asbury, Iowa.
- Screen Snapshots: Stars at the Tropical Ice Gardens (1939)
- Weekend in Hollywood (1947)
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Night at 21 Club (1952)
- Ohmart, Ben (2007). Don Ameche: The Kenosha Comeback Kid. Albany: BearManor Media.