Eddie Cantor (January 31, 1892 – October 10, 1964), born Isidore Itzkowitz, was an American “illustrated song” performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor and songwriter.
Familiar to Broadway, radio, movie and early television audiences, this “Apostle of Pep” was regarded almost as a family member by millions because his top-rated radio shows revealed intimate stories and amusing anecdotes about his wife Ida and five daughters. Some of his hits include “Makin’ Whoopee,” “Ida,” “If You Knew Susie,” “Ma! He’s Makin’ Eyes at Me,” “Margie” and “How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?” He also wrote a few songs, including “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Merrie Melodies Warner Bros. cartoon theme.
His eye-rolling song-and-dance routines eventually led to his nickname, “Banjo Eyes.” In 1933, the artist Frederick J. Garner caricatured Cantor with large round eyes resembling the drum-like pot of a banjo. Cantor’s eyes became his trademark, often exaggerated in illustrations, and leading to his appearance on Broadway in the musical Banjo Eyes (1941).
His charity and humanitarian work was extensive, and he is credited with coining the phrase and helping to develop The March of Dimes.