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Henry Armetta (4 July 188821 October 1945), born Enrico Armetta, was an Italianmarker movie character actor who appeared in at least 150 films, starting in silents as early as 1915 to a movie released in 1946, after his death.

Biography

Armetta was born in Palermomarker, Sicily, on July 4, 1888. At the age of 14, he stowed away on a boat and came to America. He performed menial tasks to get by and eventually ended up working as a pants presser in New York Citymarker. He managed to befriend Raymond Hitchcock, who got him a part in his play- "A Yankee Consul".

He moved to Hollywood in 1920 and easily found work as stereotypical Italian, often playing a barber, grocer or restaurant owner. He went on to appear in over 152 silent films, and at least 24 films in 1934 alone, sometimes uncredited.

In 1934 he appeared in "Imitation of Life" as an Italian craftsman ready to Paint the newly acquired storefront in the New York City Boardwalk area alongside White widow Bea Pullman (Claudette Colbert) and her daughter Jessie (Juanita Quigley as a toddler, Marilyn Knowlden as an eight-year-old) take in black housekeeper Delilah Johnson (Louise Beavers) and her daughter, light-complexioned Peola (Fredi Washington) — exchanging room and board for work, even though Bea is struggling to make ends meet herself. Delilah and Peola quickly become like family to Jessie and Bea. They particularly enjoy Delilah's pancakes, made from a special family recipe.

In 1938 he appeared in "Everybody Sing" with Judy Garland, Allan Jones, and Fanny Brice. In 1941, he memorably played the father of a large Italian family shopping for beds in The Big Store opposite the three Marx Brothers. His broad "stage-Italian" persona and mounting exasperation (to Chico, "hey doncha make-a fun-a my accent") almost upstages the brothers.

A much thinner Armetta can be briefly glimpsed in one of his last appearances in the 1945 Technicolor musical Anchors Aweigh. He died the same year of a heart attack in San Diegomarker, Californiamarker, leaving behind a wife and (only!) three children.

Selected Films



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