|Birth name||Harry Joachim|
|Born||May 22, 1907|
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||March 29, 1986 (aged 78)|
San Diego, California, U.S.
|Spouse||4, including Naomi Ritz|
|Relative(s)||Al Ritz (brother) |
Jimmy Ritz (brother)
Ritz was born Harry Joachim on May 28, 1907 in Newark, New Jersey. He was born the youngest of six children to parents Max (December 1871–January 4, 1939) and Pauline Joachim, (May 1874–November 26, 1935). His father was born in Austria-Hungary and owned a haberdashery and his mother was born in Russia.
Ritz was the brother to fellow comedians, (and future comedy partners), Al and Jimmy Ritz. He also had another brother named George who would become the future manager to the Ritz Brothers and had a sister named Gertrude Soll.
By 1925, and after a full career on Broadway, he and brothers Al and Jimmy decided to team up and form a song/dance-and-comedy act called the Ritz Brothers. Al chose the name "Ritz" after seeing it on the side of a laundry truck. The brothers would have Harry standing in the middle singing The Man in the Middle Is the Funny One, a song written for them. The other two brothers would then take to berating Harry for occupying that favored spot and, as they screamed their displeasure, Harry would wander about bellowing "Don't holler--please don't holler." Their comedy style was a tandem song and dance, as if they were one.
By 1930 they were playing the Palace where the headliner was Frank Fay with his bride, Barbara Stanwyck. By 1934, they had done their first film together as a team, "Hotel Anchovy", all of 18min. long.
They worked in Shubert shows for a time and in 1932 caught the attention of Earl Carroll who featured them in his Vanities that year. They were appearing at the old Clover Club on Hollywood's Sunset Strip when Darryl F. Zanuck reportedly caught the act and signed them to a contract. (Al had appeared earlier in a silent film, The Avenging Trail in 1918.)
The Ritz Brothers started their Hollywood film career with 20th Century Fox in 1936, starring with Alice Faye in Sing, Baby, Sing. Later they were in One in a Million with Sonja Henie, The Three Musketeers with Don Ameche, Kentucky Moonshine and The Goldwyn Follies.
The brothers left Fox in 1940 and went with rival studio Universal. The brothers quit after filming the movie "Never a Dull Moment" in 1943 to concentrate on club dates. The Ritzes, among the first of the big-money acts in Las Vegas, made a few television specials in the early 1950s. They carried their zaniness on the road until 1965 when Al died in New Orleans where they were performing. Harry and Jimmy stayed together and by 1966 opened the new Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. They continued to perform, just the two of them, in Florida and upstate New York theaters, cruise ships, as well as some guest appearances on the Dick Cavett Show, Merv Griffin, etc. By the 1970s and 1980s, they had small roles in films such as Blazing Stewardesses (1975) and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). Harry also appeared in a cameo in the 1976 Mel Brooks film Silent Movie.
Harry was married four times, and had 7 children ( three different mothers) and one granddaughter.
Death and legacy
In his last years, Ritz battled with cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. But Ritz died of pneumonia on March 29, 1986. He left behind a widow, his children ( including two young daughters with a very young wife), granddaughter and his sister. Ritz is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Ritz, along with his brothers, influenced comedians such as Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, and Danny Kaye. Brooks cast Ritz in a cameo in his 1976 movie Silent Movie. In an interview with Esquire magazine, Brooks had this to say regarding Ritz;
|“||As far as I'm concerned, Harry Ritz was the funniest man ever. His craziness and his freedom were unmatched. There was no intellectualizing with him. You just hoped there were no pointy objects in the room when he was working 'cause you were down on the floor, spitting, out of control, laughing your brains out. Harry Ritz always put me away. Always.||”|
In that same interview, Lewis had this to say about Ritz;
|“||Harry was the teacher. He had the extraordinary ability to deny himself dignity onstage. Harry taught us that the only thing that mattered was getting a laugh ‑whether you did it with a camel or with two rabbis humping a road map. Harry spawned us all. We all begged, borrowed and stole from him, every one of us. Without him, we wouldn't be here.||”|
|1936||Sing, Baby, Sing|
|1937||One in a Million|
|1937||On the Avenue|
|1937||You Can't Have Everything|
|1937||Life Begins in College|
|1937||Ali Baba Goes to Town|
|1938||The Goldwyn Follies|
|1938||Straight Place and Show|
|1939||The Three Musketeers|
|1939||Pack Up Your Troubles|
|1942||Behind the Eight Ball|
|1943||Show-Business at War|
|1943||Never a Dull Moment|
|1956||Brooklyn Goes to Las Vegas|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood|
|1979||Beanes of Boston|
- "IMDb Entry". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
- "Harry Ritz (1907-1986) Find A Grave Memorial". Find a Grave. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
- Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence & McNeilly, Donald (2007), Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, New York: Routledge, p. 935, ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
- Folkart, Burt (March 31, 1986). "Harry Ritz, 78, Member of Zany Vaudeville Brothers, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
- "HARRY RITZ, 78, LAST BROTHER OF SLAPSTICK COMEDY TEAM". United Press International. The New York Times. April 1, 1986. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
- "ESQUIRE -MEL BROOKS SAYS THIS IS THE FUNNIEST MAN IN THE WORLD". Esquire. Retrieved February 21, 2015.