Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Jonathan Winters

Jonathan Winters as moving van driver, Lennie Pike in a scene from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963

On this day in 1925, Jonathan Harshman Winters, III was born in Bellbrook, Ohio. At age 17 Winters enlisted in the Marines, serving in the South Pacific during World War II. After his discharge, he studied cartooning at Dayton Art Institute, where he met Eileen Schauder, whom he married in 1948.

He started doing comedy routines while in college, and became a radio personality under the name Johnny Winters. His big break occurred (with the revised name of Jonathan) when he worked for Alistair Cooke on the CBS Sunday morning show Omnibus.

As a stand-up comic with a madcap wildness, Winters recorded many classic comedy albums for the Verve Records label, starting in 1960. Probably the best-known of his characters from this period is Maude Frickert, the seemingly sweet old lady with the barbed tongue.

Winters has appeared in nearly 50 movies and several television shows, including particularly notable roles in the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and in the dual roles of Henry Glenworthy and his dark, scheming brother, the Rev. Wilbur Glenworthy, in the film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One.

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