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Dick Shawn Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (7) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 1 December 1923Buffalo, New York, USA
Date of Death 17 April 1987San Diego, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameRichard Schulefand
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

One-of-a-kind nightclub comedian/singer Dick Shawn (ne Richard Schulefand) was as off-the-wall as they came and, as such, proved to be rather an acquired taste. Way ahead of his time most say, it was extremely difficult indeed to know how to properly tap into this man's eclectic talents. Shawn began inching toward the forefront during the be-bop 50s and early 60s with his odd penchant for playing cool cats.

During his mild bid for film stardom, he was top-billed as a hip, laid back genie in the thoroughly dismal satire The Wizard of Baghdad (1960), but seemed to have better luck when taken in smaller doses. He fared quite well opposite another "way-out-there" comedian, Ernie Kovacs, in Wake Me When It's Over (1960) as a hustling soldier out to make a buck in the Far East. Also on the plus side, he replaced Zero Mostel in the bawdy musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" on Broadway and stole a small scene in the all-star epic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). By far, the one role that completely overshadows all of his other hard work is his mock portrayal of a singing Adolf Hitler in the show-within-a-movie The Producers (1967). In the film, which starred Mostel and Gene Wilder as two con artists deliberately producing a stage "bomb" called "Springtime for Hitler," Shawn sang the hammy, absurdly narcissistic song "Love Power." The movie finally captured Shawn in his element, but this stroke of genius of matching actor to role would never happen again for him. For the most part his roles came off slick and smarmy, and were stuck in mediocre material.

Shawn won a huge fan base, however, touring in one-man stage shows which contained a weird mix of songs, sketches, satire, philosophy and even pantomime. A bright, innovative wit, one of his best touring shows was called "The Second Greatest Entertainer in the World." During the show's intermission, Shawn would lie visibly on the stage floor absolutely still during the entire time. By freakish coincidence, Shawn was performing at the University of California at San Diego in 1987 when he suddenly fell forward on the stage during one of his spiels about the Holocaust. The audience, of course, laughed, thinking it was just a part of his odd shtick. In actuality, the 63-year-old married actor with four children had suffered a fatal heart attack. A not surprising end for this thoroughly offbeat and intriguing personality.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Rita Bachner (1946 - ?) (divorced) (4 children)

Trivia (7)

Interred at Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California, USA.
Died on stage of a heart attack.
Was supposedly the first person to execute the icon "The High Five", in the movie, The Producers (1967). It was during the play in the movie, "Springtime For Hitler", the character of Hitler played by Shawn sent for Goebbels who was played by David Patch, and instead of putting his hand in front of for the "give me five", Shawn held it up and Patch slapped it. Though it would not become popular till many years later.
Father of Amy, Wendy, Adam and Jennifer.
The irony of his death on stage is that it went "unnoticed" because of Shawn's strict instructions to stage crews. He would tell all concerned that he was liable to do anything at any time, including pratfalls, and that they were not to react to this. At his last performance, it did not occur to anyone that something tragic had happened until it was felt that his lying motionless on stage had run the joke rather thin. It was only then that Shawn was discovered to have died doing what he did best; enthralling his audience with his marvelous humour.
Dick Shawn was a guest star on a very popular in 1960s TV-show "Password" (1961).
William Shatner attended Shawn's second-to-last show the night before he died on stage. Shatner has said at conventions that he thinks that would be a great way to go out.

Personal Quotes (2)

I think of my relationship with any audience as a love affair. It lasts only a little while but I always look forward to a happy ending. For both of us.
I can't work places like Vegas or the Catskills where people are belching. Maybe I belong in colleges. At least if I die, I die in front of intelligent people who know what I'm talking about.

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