A Year: Day to Day Men: 18th of November

The Cross

November 18, 1908 was the birthdate of American comic actress Imogene Coca.

Imogene Coca, born Imogene Fernandez de Coca in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the daughter of José Fernandez de Coca, a conductor, and his wife Sadie Brady, a dancer and magician’s assistant.

In her youth, Imogene Coca received piano, dance, and voice lessons. While still a teenager, she moved from Philadelphia to seek a living as a dancer, starting in the chorus of the 1925 Broadway musical “When You Smile” which ran forty-nine performances in New York City. Coca came to be featured as a headliner, appearing in Manhattan nightclubs, with music arranged by her first husband, Robert Burton. She came to prominence when she began to combine music with comedy. Coca’s first big critical success was in Broadway musical revue “New Faces of 1934”. A well-received part of her act was a comic striptease, during which Coca made sultry faces and gestures but would manage to remove only one glove.

Imogene Coca played opposite Sid Caesar on “The Admiral Broadway Revue” from January to June in 1949. In the early days of live television, she again played opposite Sid Caesar in a sketch comedy program, “Your Show of Shows”, which was immensely popular from 1950 to 1954. Coca won the second-ever Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1951 and was nominated for four other Emmys for her work in the show. Her success in that program earned Coca her own series “The Imogen Coca Show which ran from 1954-1955.

Imogene Coca continued to appear on comedy and variety series from the 1950s to the 1980s. She appeared on “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Hollywood Palace”, made guest appearances on “Bewitched” and “The Brady Bunch”, and occasionally appeared in films such as “Under the Yum Yum Tree” in 1963 and the 1963 “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, as Aunt Edna.

After having appeared in several Broadway musical-comedy revues and plays between the 1930s and the 1950s, Imogene Coca returned to Broadway at the age of 70 with a Tony Award-nominated performance as religious zealot Letitia Primrose in “On the Twentieth Century”, a 1978 stage musical adapted from the 1934 film. Her role, that of a religious fanatic who plasters decals onto every available surface, had been a male in both the film and the original stage production, and was rewritten specifically as a vehicle for Coca.

Bottom Insert Image: Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, “Your Show of Shows”, 1950-1954, Publicity Shot, Shout Factory

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