Cliff Edwards (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 08, 2022

Biography — Even in the days when he associated Hawaii only with canned pineapples, Cliff Edwards played the ukelele. The American theater-going public came to know him as “Ukelele Ike” and he was a familiar figure on Broadway. He is said to have sold more original songs than any other entertainer on earth, the sales running into the millions of copies. His first really big song hit was “Japanese Sandman.”

Now, Edwards is under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is definitely a Broadway expatriate, along with hundreds of other stars who appear almost exclusively in pictures.

Edwards was born in Hannibal, Mo., the son of Edward Edwards, a railroad man. He was educated in St. Louis and went to New York as a boy. He intended to become one of those stick-twirling drummers who amuse the patrons of Broadway orchestras. Instead, he learned to pick on an inexpensive ukelele and sold newspapers.

Made Hit With “Uke”

His peculiar ability to draw music from the little instrument soon attracted the attention of vaudeville people who bought newspapers from him. Edwards got a try-out and was an instantaneous hit. He would invite the audience to name its songs and he would play them with the gay insouciance of an untroubled troubador.

He toured in vaudeville throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico and South America, and succeeded everywhere. Returning to this country he joined a musical stock company in Chicago, but Broadway beckoned him immediately and he appeared with Marilyn Miller in “Sonny.” His popularity increased amazingly and he strummed his famous ukelele in “Lady Be Good,” then in the Ziegfeld “Follies” (The Great Ziegfeld) and next at the Winter Garden. He began to make phonograph recordings in 1924 and continues to do it now.

Screen Debut in Short

It was inevitable, of course, that Edwards and his ukelele should reach an even greater audience with the introduction of sound in pictures. He made his screen debut in a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical short subject in 1928.

He has appeared in “So This Is College.” “Hollywood Revue of 1929,” “Marianne,” “Lord Byron of Broadway,” “Montana Moon,” “Those Three French Girls,” “The Prodigal,” “Dance, Fool, Dance,” “Way Out West,” “Parlor, Bedroom and Bath,” “The Great Lover,” “Lullaby,” “Sidewalks of New York,” “The Sin of Madelon Claudet,” “Hell Divers,” “They Gave Him a Gun,” Saratoga, “Between Two Women,” “Bad Guy,” “The Women Men Marry” and “Bad Man of Brimstone.”

Edwards is five feet five and a half inches in height, weighs 145 pounds, and has no ambition to become a matinee idol. But he enjoys life every minute, drives a long, underslung apple-green roadster, paints for his own amusement and plays a little golf. He also has a remarkable collection of goldfish, but his favorite pet is his ukelele.

Still Fond of “Stem”

Although an expatriate from Broadway, he manages to get back to the “Stem” once in a while and he considers New York, where he lived for fifteen years, as his home town. He knows today — as he always has — everyone worth knowing on Broadway, and his periodical visits are always a source of gaiety and an excuse for parties.

Cliff is not at all worried about the future. If someone pulls motion pictures out from under him, he can go back to the stage and, if that fails, he says, he still has his uke and can make records.

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937