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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
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Claim to Fame
`Your Show of Shows`
Profile Bio Text
Imogene Coca is best remembered for playing opposite Sid Caesar in the live 90-minute "Your Show of Shows," which ran every Saturday night in regular season on NBC from February 1950 to June 1954. Their repertoire of comedy acts included the very memorable, hilarious, timeless, and irreconcilable married couple Charlie and Doris Hickenlooper. Coca, however, did not begin her career in comedy. Her father, who was the conductor at a small Philadelphia opera house, and her mother, who performed in vaudville, certainly instilled in her a desire to perform, but nurtured that desire with piano lessons, vocal training, and dance. "I began as one of those horrible little children who sing with no voice," Coca said of her early training. By the time she was 13, she found herself tap dancing, somersaulting (along with various other acrobatics), dancing ballet, and otherwise committed full-time as a serious vaudeville trouper. She left Philadelphia at 15 for New York where she plied her trade as a dancer. She debuted in the chorus of "When You Smile." For the next 30 years, music and dance were her staple. She could be found in the troupes of musical revues and doing her own acts in Manhattan clubs, such as the Rainbow Room, the Silver Slipper and Cafe Society Uptown. Her first husband, Robert Burton (who died in 1955), arranged music for many of her performances. Comedy and pantomime filtered into her routines quite by accident. In the production of "New Faces of 1934" Leonard Stillman, the choreographer for the show, loaned her his coat to keep her warm in what was a very cold theater. To augment what warmth she was getting from the oversized coat, Coca, along with three male dancers in the chorus began jumping up and down and improvising dance steps. Stillman noticed them and immediately recognized the comedic affect. He encouraged them to repeat the routine in the show, coat and all, which they did. Although coolly received by the audience at first, eventually the bit had the audience in stitches. Even the critics laughed, crediting Coca with great comedic talent. To hone her skills in what would become her forte in show business, Coca did the next four summers in the Poconos working with Danny Kaye, Carol Channing, and the like. It wasn`t until near the end of WWII that she found much work in her new field and it wasn`t until January 1949 that she was paired with Sid Caesar in NBC`s "Admiral Broadway Revue," a show that aired only until that summer. In the fall of 1950, "Your Show of Shows" was launched on NBC. Coca won an Emmy the following year for her contributions to the show. She and Ceasar left the show in 1954 to pursue individual routes. They did not, however, match the success they enjoyed in "Your Show of Shows." Coca attempted a solo with "The Imogene Coca Show," but it lasted only one season. In 1958, Caesar and she paired again on "Sid Caesar Invites You"; still, it was not the same. Only in 1967 did some of that same magic again occur when the original cast from "Your Show of Shows" reunited on CBS in "The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special"; it won an Emmy for outstanding variety special. Coca starred in two single-season sitcoms in the 1960s: NBC`s 1963-64 "Grindl" and CBS`s 1966-67 "It`s About Time." In the 1970s she could be found visiting on Dick Cavett`s talk show and making guest appearances on "The Carol Burnett Show." Thereafter, she appeared only sporadically on T.V. and in the movies -- her most notable appearance as Aunt Edna in "National Lampoon`s Vacation" with Chevy Chase. Coca and Caesar re-visited some of their old sketches and put together the 1991 show "Together Again," which they toured throughout the country on stage. In her later years, Coca and her second husband, actor King Donovan (who died in 1987), lived in Connecticut and Manhattan -- staying close to her roots in vaudville, theatre, and "Your Show of Shows."
Full Name at Birth
Imogene Fernandez de Coca
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Imogene Coca (November 18, 1908 – June 2, 2001) was an American comic actress best known for her role opposite Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows.
Wiki Bio Text
==Imogene Coca== Actress - When she began working with Sid Caesar in 1949, American actress Imogene Coca agreed to have her "official" birth date readjusted to 1920, so that she'd seem more a contemporary of Caesar. In truth, she was born in 1908, and was performing professionally while Caesar was still in knee pants. Feeling that she was not attractive by 1930s standards (though certainly so by the standards of the present), Coca realized early that she'd never be taken seriously as an actress or dancer; accordingly, she went the "Fanny Brice" route by lampooning the Classic Arts. Coca first caught the fancy of the public in Leonard Silleman's New Faces of 1937 (co-starring with then-husband Robert Burton), in which she performed ballet parodies and heavy-drama lampoons. Also in 1937, Coca made her film debut in the 2-reel comedy Dime a Dance; the supporting cast included fellow up-and-comers Danny Kaye, June Allyson and Barry Sullivan. During this period, Coca starred in experimental television broadcasts, recreating her best New Faces sketches. She met producer Max Liebman while starring in the resort-hotel Tamiment revues of the 1940s. It was Liebman's inspiration to team Coca with another Tamiment alumnus Sid Caesar on the 1949 TV weekly The Admiral Revue. This project led to the immortal Your Show of Shows (1950-54), wherein Caesar and Coca shared the spotlight with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris. In 1954, Caesar and Coca parted company. Caesar was able to sustain his success as a solo for awhile, but 1954's The Imogene Coca Show failed to do the actress justice and lasted only a year. Most of Coca's subsequent projects were likewise beneath her talents and doomed to failure. She starred with second husband King Donovan in the 1959 Broadway flop The Girls in 509, was a featured player in the 1963 comedy film Under the Yum Yum Tree, and headlined two weekly TV series, Grindl (1963) and It's About Time (1967). A 1967 TV reunion with Sid Caesar, and the 1973 theatrical release of Ten From Your Show of Shows, thrust Coca back into prominence, allowing her to thrive on the touring-show and tent-musical circuit. In the last two decades, her career has encompassed such highs as the Broadway musical On the 20th Century (as a dotty religious fanatic) and such lows as TV's Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (1982), in which she played Granny's mother. Imogene Coca's most memorable movie appearance of recent years has been as the troublesome Aunt Edna in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), whose death en route to California provides the film its most tastelessly hilarious sight gag.
Biography by Hal Erickson
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