Birthday: May 31, 1908
Died At Age: 85
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Dominic Felix Amici
Born in: Kenosha, Wisconsin
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Honore Prendergast (m. 1932–1986)
father: Felice Amici
mother: Barbara Etta Amici
siblings: Ann Ameche, Catherine Ameche, Elizabeth Ameche, Jane Ameche, Jim Ameche, Louis Ameche, Umberto Ameche
children: Bonnie Ameche, Connie Ameche, Dominic Ameche, Lonnie Ameche, Ronald Ameche, Thomas Ameche
Died on: December 6, 1993
place of death: Scottsdale, Arizona
U.S. State: Wisconsin
Cause of Death: Cancer
education: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Don Ameche was an American actor and voice artist popularly known for playing the Oscar-winning role of ‘Art Selwyn’ in the 1985 American science-fiction fantasy comedy-drama film ‘Cocoon’. Ameche’s acting career lasted for more than sixty years over the course of which he appeared in numerous notable roles. Before he got the opportunity to showcase his acting skills in the film and television industry, he performed for several years on the vaudeville. After earning some popularity working on radio shows, he earned his first movie contract from 20th Century Fox in the mid-1930s. During the 1950s he entered the Broadway and television world and garnered much fame by performing comedy, drama, and musical acts. During his sixty-year long acting career, he had as many as ninety credits to his name working in films and television shows. His greatest works include the films ‘Alexander's Ragtime Band’, ‘The Story of Alexander Graham Bell’, ‘Down Argentine Way’, ‘Cocoon’, and ‘Things Change’. The Academy Award-winning actor is also the inspiration behind the character ‘Carter Pewterschmidt’ in the American animated sitcom ‘Family Guy’, created by Seth MacFarlane.
Childhood & Early Life
Don Ameche was born as Dominic Felix Amici in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on May 31, 1908, to Felice Amici, a professional bartender, and Barbara Etta. His father was of Italian ancestry and his mother was of German, Scottish, and Irish bloodline.
He had seven siblings: three brothers, Umberto (popularly known as Bert), James (commonly known as Jim Ameche, also an actor), and Louis, as well as four sisters, Catherine, Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna.
He went to Marquette University and also attended the Loras College. He then proceeded to the University of Wisconsin to complete his studies. He aspired to become a lawyer one day, but as the years went by, he found himself more drawn to acting and theatrical performances.
During his college days, Don Ameche learned a lot about acting, appearing regularly in his college dramas. When he was at the Marquette University, a lead actor failed to show up during a stage show. Don was encouraged by his friends to take the opportunity and he grabbed the offer.
Before entering the show business, Ameche spent a lot of time in his college stage productions, performing and learning the skills. He later appeared on Vaudeville.
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Don Ameche got his first chance to work in a film in 1935, appearing as a prisoner in the film ‘Clive of India,’ and later that year had another appearance in the film ‘Dante's Inferno’. However, in both these films, he was not credited and had to wait for another year to get an official debut in the film industry. He appeared as ‘Karl Freyman / Mario Signarelli’ in the film ‘Sins of Man’ (1936).
Within three years, Ameche established himself as one of the most valuable actors in Hollywood, working in over ten films. Between 1937 and 1939, he appeared in several important films showcasing his dramatic acting skills as well as his comedic side. Some of his important works in the 1930s were ‘Ramona’, ‘Ladies in Love’, ‘One in a Million’, ‘Love Is News’, ‘Fifty Roads to Town’, ‘You Can't Have Everything’, ‘Love Under Fire’, ‘Happy Landing’, ‘Alexander's Ragtime Band’, ‘Gateway’, ‘The Three Musketeers’, and ‘Midnight’.
In 1939, Ameche appeared in the fictional biopic of the great Alexander Graham Bell, playing the inventor’s character in the film ‘The Story of Alexander Graham Bell’. This movie became so popular that Ameche became an icon and people started taking his name in reference to Alexander Graham Bell’s invention, the telephone!
In the next decade, he appeared in over twenty movies, some of which were critically acclaimed and very popular. He appeared in the 1943 Technicolor American comedy film ‘Heaven Can Wait’ as ‘Henry Van Cleve’, acting alongside Gene Tierney and Charles Coburn. The film was based on a play titled ‘Birthday’ by Leslie Bush-Fekete and it was nominated at the Academy Awards in the ‘Best Cinematography – Color’, ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Picture’ categories.
Some of his other films like ‘Wing and a Prayer’, ‘Greenwich Village’, ‘So Goes My Love’, and ‘Sleep, My Love’ were also fairly popular among the audiences.
During the 1940s, he became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood but shifted his focus a bit away from the films towards the radio. He appeared as an announcer as well as a sketch participant on ‘The Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy Show’ and immediately became a major radio entertainer.
He also did shows like ‘Empire Builders’, ‘The First Nighter Program’, ‘Family Theater’, and the ‘Betty and Bob’ soap opera’ and later appeared alongside Frances Langford in ‘The Bickersons’, a radio comedy series based on married couples. His popularity soon led him to set up his own show ‘The Old Gold Don Ameche Show’.
Ameche took a break from films and theater in the late 1940s, making only sporadic appearances in the coming years. He once again became active in the film and television industry in the 1980s and delivered some iconic roles in films like ‘Cocoon’, ‘Cocoon: The Return’, 'Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey’ and ‘Corrina, Corrina’.
After appearing in the fictionalized biopic of Alexander Graham Bell in the 1939 film ‘The Story of Alexander Graham Bell,’ Don Ameche became very popular and his name became a catchphrase for the word “telephone,” with people saying “Ameche” to indicate the word telephone!
In 1985, he appeared in the film ‘Cocoon’ and won the ‘Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor’. He also returned in the sequel of the movie titled ‘Cocoon: The Return’, earning a lot of praise from both the critics and the audience.
Awards & Achievements
Don Ameche was honored with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1985 movie ‘Cocoon.’
Don Ameche married Honore Prendergast in 1932 and had six children together. The couple welcomed their first child, son Don Ameche Jr. on October 3, 1933. They had their last child, daughter Constance Victoria Ameche on February 22, 1948. Honore died in 1986, leaving behind a grieving Don Ameche after over five decades of marriage.
Ameche died on December 6, 1993, in Scottsdale, Arizona at his son’s residence. He suffered from prostate cancer which eventually caused his death. He was 85. He was cremated and the ashes were later buried at the Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Iowa.