Friday, January 08, 2010
This just in from Disney Historian Jim Korkis who has always loved the character of Jiminy Cricket:
[Many Disney fans know about the sad end of the life of Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards who was the charming voice of Jiminy Cricket, not only in "Pinocchio" but in many of the special animated shorts done for the Original Mickey Mouse Club and for a good number of Disneyland records as well as other projects. Unfortunately, he had a lifetime addiction to alcohol and drugs as well. He entered a nursing home in 1969 as a charity patient having lost all of his money (from taxes, gambling, payments to three ex-wives and more) and the Disney Company was quietly paying his medical bills along with help from the Actor's Fund. At the time of his death from a heart attack at the Virgil Convalescent Hospital on July 17, 1971 at the age of seventy-six, Edwards' passing wasn't reported to the public for several days because hospital officials didn't consider it newsworthy since they didn't know he had ever been famous. His body was initially unclaimed and donated to the University of California, Los Angeles medical school. When Walt Disney Productions found out about this, it offered to purchase the corpse and pay for the burial.
The Actors Fund of America and the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund paid for the burial instead. A spokesman for the Actors' Fund, Iggie Wolfington, said at the time, " "I can't praise [Walt] Disney Productions enough for the way they continued over the years to look out for Mr. Edwards' well-being." The Disney Company did pay for the headstone.
However there is now a new mystery surrounding Edwards' birth that has been uncovered by George Grant who runs the excellent Original Mickey Mouse Club website (link over in the righthand column). All soruces say that Edwards was born in Hannibal, Missouri in 1895 and that has never been questioned. When Grant started to do some research on Edwards to do an entry for site, however, he could " find no records for him or his family from Hannibal MO; they are absent from the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census for instance. His 1920 Census record is also a bit of a puzzle."
Here is that excerpt from the 1920 Census (taken Jan 15, 1920), "Cliff Edwards was 24 years old, born Illinois, parents both from England, living in Manhatten as a renter in a building with other show business folks. Was listed as married, but lived with a single lodger named Charles Freeman, also 24, born in Russia to Russian parents. Cliff listed profession as actor on stage, Charles as clerk in stock brokerage."
It was not uncommon at the time for actors to lie about their age, real name or background....and this was sometimes done with the creative assistance of the studio they were working for as well....and Edwards did work in Chicago, Illinois (where he picked up the nickname "Ukulele Ike" when a waiter at a cafe where he was performing kept forgtetting his name and called him "Ike"). So there are still new Disney mysteries to uncover, especially if like Disney historians like Michael Barrier, you go and check the official records for the time that often contradict the well-known and often-repeated stories that we all have just accepted as fact over the years.]