Jiminy Cricket was a Depressed Alcoholic
You’ve seen Disney’s “Pinocchio,” right? Of course you have. Did you know about the guy who did the voice of Jiminy Cricket?
Cliff Edwards was a vaudeville star in the late teens and early 20s who performed as “Ukelele Ike” (that’s how “ukulele” was spelled back then, apparently) on stage and screen. He cut some phonograph records throughout the 20s, and is credited as being one of the first American entertainers to popularize the uke.
Like many vaudeville performers, Edwards gradually made his way to the silver screen and was a Hollywood darling for many years. There’ s a charming scene of him and Buster Keaton playing uke in a rather unorthodox way in the 1930 WWI comedy “Doughboys.” Look for Edwards with the drum sticks (?) and wild scat singing.
Also, like many performers who struck it big in the first quarter of the 20th century, Edwards didn’t handle his money that well. Despite selling more than 70 million records in his career, Edwards had a score of tax troubles, alimony payments, as well as struggles with drugs and alcohol. He died broke in 1971, his star faded in the previous two decades.
Oh, and this song? It’s from 1926, and when I first heard it, I was struck by the candor and cynicism about not just women and marriage, but life in general. I’m not sure if Ukelele Ike was just trying to be funny by singing such a dark song in such an upbeat, peppy way.
So next time you hear “When You Wish Upon a Star,” remember that its singer was a bitter showbiz sensation who ultimately saw the futility of chasing money when he was rich, and died broke and miserable.
“Some folks hustle day and night for no good reason at all.
Grabbing money left and right for no good reason at all. For a million we all try
When we get it, me-oh-my
We just lay right down and die
For no good reason at all”