Staring as a vaudevillian, he was a member of the MGM pantheon of film stars and then a television pioneer, he parlayed his comedic genius and gentle, sometimes lonely, soul into a legendary career spanning seven decades, and had a talent for characterization, whether in film (‘The Fuller Brush Man’) or television (‘San Fernando Red,’ ‘Freddie the Freeloader,’ ‘Clem Kadiddlehopper’). Born in 1913, two months after the death of his father, he was an icon on television for 20 years after debuting in 1951, placing in the ratings top 10 eight times. In later years, his artistic work (usually paintings of clowns) fetched millions. He was married three times, contributed greatly to worthy causes and died a year and a half after his genius and contributions were recognized at the 1996 Academy Awards ceremonies, where he was presented with the Governor’s Award.
Entombed in the Great Mausoleum at Forrest Lawn in Glendale.