He was 72 when he died from a heart attack on October 10, 1964.
Born Edward Israel Iskowitz in New York City, Eddie Cantor was a vaudeville performer, dancer, comedian, singer, actor, and songwriter. His charity and humanitarian work was extensive. He is credited with coining the phrase and helping to develop The March of Dimes.
His mother died in childbirth one year after his birth, and his father died when he was two, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, Esther Kantrowitz. A misunderstanding when signing her grandson for school gave him her last name of Kantrowitz (shortened by the clerk to Kanter). Esther died on January 29, 1917, two days before he signed a long-term contract with to appear in the Ziegfeld Follies.
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He had adopted the first name "Eddie" when he met his future wife Ida Tobias in 1903, because she felt that "Izzy" wasn't a good name for an actor. (They married in 1914.) They had five daughters: Marjorie, Natalie, Edna, Marilyn and Janet - who provided comic fodder for Cantor's longtime running gag, especially on radio, about his five "un-marriable" daughters. A gag several radio historians including Gerald Nachman (Raised on Radio) have said did not always sit well with the girls.
Broadway, radio and early TV audiences were familiar with Cantor and was regarded almost as "a family member" by millions. His eye-rolling song-and-dance routines eventually led to his nickname, Banjo Eyes. His eyes became his trademark, often exaggerated in illustrations, and leading to his appearance on Broadway in the musical Banjo Eyes in 1941.