Erik Rhodes (actor, born 1906)

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Erik Rhodes
Ernest Sharpe

(1906-02-10)February 10, 1906
DiedFebruary 17, 1990(1990-02-17) (aged 84)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Oklahoma
Years active1927–1976

Erik Rhodes (born Ernest Sharpe; February 10, 1906 – February 17, 1990) was an American film and Broadway singer and actor. He is best remembered today for appearing in two classic Hollywood musical films with the popular dancing team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Top Hat (1935).

Early years[edit]

The son of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Sharpe, he was born at El Reno, Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, Rhodes attended Central High School and the University of Oklahoma. While he was a student at the university, he earned a scholarship that enabled him to spend a year in New York studying voice.[1]

During World War II, Rhodes was a language specialist in the intelligence service of the Army Air Force.[2]


Rhodes started performing on the Broadway stage in A Most Immoral Lady (1928) using his birth name, Ernest R. Sharpe. This was followed by two musicals, The Little Show (1929) and Hey Nonny Nonny! (1932).[3]

He first used the name Erik Rhodes when he appeared on Broadway in Gay Divorce (1932)[3] and again in London in 1933. In this show, he gave a memorable comic portrayal of a spirited, feather-brained, thick-accented Italian character that impressed RKO executives enough to bring him to Hollywood to reprise the role in the film version, The Gay Divorcee (1934).[note 1][4]

Between 1947 and 1964, he was back on Broadway in The Great Campaign, Dance Me a Song, Collector's Item, Shinbone Alley, Jamaica, How to Make a Man, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.[3] In the Cole Porter musical Can-Can, he appeared as a lecherous art critic, and introduced the song "Come Along With Me". In 1946, he was called in to take over a role in the Vernon Duke musical Sweet Bye and Bye during its tryout, but the show closed before reaching Broadway.

Rhodes also acted in regional theater, including Playhouse on the Mall in Paramus, New Jersey,[5] and the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia.[6]

On radio, Rhodes was heard regularly on the variety show 51 East 51st.[7] Among his television appearances, he performed in the variety program Wonder Boy[2] and played the role of murder victim Herman Albright in the 1961 Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Violent Vest."


Rhodes died of pneumonia[citation needed] in an Oklahoma City nursing home on February 17, 1990, at age 84[2] and is interred with his wife in the El Reno Cemetery in El Reno, Oklahoma.






  1. ^ The different spellings of Gay Divorce (Broadway play, 1932) and The Gay Divorcee (film, 1934) are not a typographic error. When the film was made, film censors objected to the description of a divorce as "gay" (in the traditional meaning of the word – happy, cheerful). Hence, the title change.


  1. ^ "Midwest". The Oklahoma News. Oklahoma, Oklahoma City. January 27, 1935. p. 13. Retrieved April 23, 2020 – via
  2. ^ a b c "Erik Rhodes, 84; Comedian, Actor". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. February 21, 1990. p. 18. Retrieved April 23, 2020 – via
  3. ^ a b c "Erik Rhodes". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on April 23, 2020. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  4. ^ Bergen, Ronald (February 23, 1990). "A really funny 'funny foreigner'". The Guardian. England, London. p. 39. Retrieved April 23, 2020 – via
  5. ^ Wallace, Kenneth G. (January 20, 1966). "'Remains To Be Seen' Is A Hit". The Morning Call. New Jersey, Paterson. p. 25. Retrieved April 23, 2020 – via
  6. ^ Bolton, Whitney (December 15, 1963). "Comedians rally As 'Forum' readies Visit to Forrest". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. p. 100. Retrieved April 24, 2020 – via
  7. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.

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