Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Ciara Biography - Wrote Out Goals to Elizabeth David (1913–1992) Biography » Imogene Coca: 1908-2001: Actress Biography - A Born Trouper, "pure Accident", Your Show Of Shows, Won A Tony

Imogene Coca: 1908-2001: Actress - "pure Accident"

comic comedy hat day


One day when Coca was rehearsing New Faces of 1934 at the Fulton Theater, it was so cold that she borrowed a coat from another performer in the show—Henry Fonda. To keep warm, Coca started jumping and dancing around, performing a mock strip-tease while bundled in the long wool overcoat. Producer Leonard Silliman saw her and immediately decided to put the comic dance into the show. At first, the audience was silent, unsure of how to react, but soon they burst into laughter, and a comedienne was born. Coca, however, was never quite sure how her comic success happened. She told reporter Hans Knight of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, "It was pure accident. The first time I got laughs I was just scared, terrified. I don't try for effect consciously. I just try to be a good actress."

Coca established her reputation as a comedienne in her next roles, playing in minor plays such as Who's Who and 1935's flop, Fools Rush In. In the latter show, Coca met actor Robert Burton. They were married on the last day of the show's run. Burton often arranged the music for Coca's appearances and later became a record company executive. In 1939, Coca scored a big hit in Straw Hat Review. She received many glowing reviews, lauding her "sly sense of comedy" and her uncanny imitations of stars such as "Funny Girl" Fannie Brice and Carmen Miranda.

Despite her success in the Straw Hat Review, Broadway roles were not easy to find. Throughout the late 1930s and 1940s, Coca worked the comedy clubs of the Catskills and Poconos. At Taminent, a Poconos resort created by Max Liebman, she perfected her comic routines with such performers as Danny Kaye and Carol Channing.

Coca made her film debut in 1937's comedy Dime a Dance. Her next film was The Bashful Ballerina, in which she played herself. She participated in the very beginnings of televison, starring in experimental television broadcasts performing favorite routines from New Faces.


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