Frank Fontaine

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This article is about the American entertainer Frank Fontaine. For the Bioshock character, see Frank Fontaine (Bioshock).
Frank Fontaine
Frank Fontaine 1971
Fontaine in 1971.
Born (1920-04-19)April 19, 1920
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Died August 4, 1978(1978-08-04) (aged 58)
Binghamton, New York
Occupation Comedian
Vocalist

Frank Fontaine (April 19, 1920 – August 4, 1978) was an American stage, radio, film and television comedian and singer.

Career[edit]

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he is best known for his appearances on television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Jackie Gleason Show, The Jack Benny Show, and The Tonight Show.

One of his earliest appearances was on the radio show, The Jack Benny Program. During an episode which aired on April 9, 1950, Fontaine played a bum (named "John L. C. Silvoney") who asked Benny for a dime for a cup of coffee. The smallest coin Benny had to offer was a fifty-cent piece, so he gave it to him. The story Benny told about this event became a running gag during later shows. Fontaine's goofy laugh and other voice mannerisms made a hit with the audience, and Benny brought him back for several more radio shows between 1950 and 1952. He also later appeared in several of Benny's television shows.

On The Jackie Gleason Show, he played the always inebriated character Crazy Guggenheim during Gleason's "Joe The Bartender" skits. His trademark was a bug-eyed grin and the same silly laugh he had done on Jack Benny's radio show. At the end of his Guggenheim sketch, he would usually sing a song, demonstrating a surprisingly good singing voice.[1] In 1963, he released an album Songs I Sing on The Jackie Gleason Show, with a collection of some of those songs, which reached number one on Billboard magazine's Top LP's chart in 1963.

Stan Freberg's voice characterization for Pete Puma in an amusing 1952 Looney Toons cartoon was based on Fontaine's character voice. Fontaine received mention in satirist Tom Lehrer's 1965 song "National Brotherhood Week", from the album That Was the Year That Was. In the live show, Lehrer mentioned National Make-Fun-of-the-Handicapped Week, "Which Frank Fontaine and Jerry Lewis are in charge of, as you know." He also was the voice of Rocky the Rhino in Walt Disney's The Jungle Book until Disney cut the creature from the picture. He was also credited in Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker's song "Jingle Bells Imitations", which was the flipside of their Jingle Bell Rock record.

The Welsh pop group Super Furry Animals reference a Frankie Fontaine in the chorus of their 1996 British single 'Hometown Unicorn', the video of which features fellow countryman Rhys Ifans.

Along with fellow film and television " professional drunks ", Jack Norton and Foster Brooks, Frank Fontaine was a lifelong non-drinker in his private life.

Death[edit]

Fontaine died of a major heart attack on August 4, 1978 in Spokane, Washington. He had just completed a live stage benefit show, had accepted a check for $25,000, which he planned to later donate for heart research, when he collapsed and died.

He was interred at Oak Grove Cemetery in Medford, Massachusetts, near his last residence in Winchester, Massachusetts, a substantial house on Highland Avenue, now the home of Winchester Community Music School.

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Billboard, February 9, 1963, p. 1.

External links[edit]