Before Philadelphian icons like Tina Fey, Will Smith, and Kevin Bacon rose to stardom, there was a whole other generation of Philadelphian entertainers who had made their mark on the world. Here’s 7 you probably didn’t know came from Philadelphia.
Larry Fine (of The Three Stooges)
Anyone who loves comedy will easily recognize this man. Larry was born Louis Fineburg in 1902, above his father’s jewelry shop on 3rd & South St. The location was once a prominent bar and restaurant known as Jon’s – which prominently featured Larry’s face. Jon’s closed late last year and is on the market. Hopefully the new owner will keep the mural of Philly’s frizzy-haired son and perhaps even rename the place Larry’s as a tribute. (Side note: Curly Joe DeRita, who joined the Stooges towards their end, was also was born in Philadelphia).
Larry was often called the “Stooge in the Middle”. He wasn’t as ill-tempered as the trio’s leader Moe, nor was he as wild and crazy as Curly or Shemp. Larry’s part in the act was often to buffer the antics of the other two Stooges. He was the glue that held things together and helped make the act last as long as it did. He joined up with the Stooges in 1928 and stayed with the trio until its end in 1970.
Screen legend and later Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly was born at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia in 1929. The family lived in the East Falls neighborhood and her father ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 1935. She attended a Philadelphia Catholic girls school, before heading to New York to pursue a career in acting.
Her talent spoke for itself and her rise to fame came quick. She starred opposite many leading men including; Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. Kelly also did three films for Alfred Hitchcock and earned several awards and nominations for her acting. She retired from the screen at the young age of 26 to marry Rainier III, Prince of Monaco.
Kelly once said walking along a creek in Fairmount Park was her “greatest treat.”
Another comedy icon, Peter Boyle, also hailed from Philadelphia. Although he was born in Norristown, his family relocated to Philadelphia during his childhood. His father was actually a Philadelphia TV personality known as Chuck Wagon Pete and hosted after-school TV programs.
Boyle is perhaps best known as the cantankerous, wise-cracking grandfather Frank Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond (a role that garnered him with 7 Emmy nominations). He also starred as Frankenstein’s Monster in the classic, Young Frankenstein and received critical acclaim in the title role of 1970’s Joe.
The Barrymore Family (Lionel, Ethel & John)
The legendary Barrymore’s of the stage and screen came from a family of already prominent stage actors in Philadelphia. Lionel, the oldest, is best-remembered for his performance as Mr. Potter in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Ethel was a stage actress primarily regarded as “The First Lady of the American Theatre” whose career spanned six decades. John, the youngest, was also an acclaimed stage actor and would go on to become a highly successful silent film star. Although he is the grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore, he passed away before her birth.
Their grandmother, Louisa Lane Drew, was the manager of Philadelphia’s Arch Street Theatre – which now is the location of the Federal Reserve.
The great comic of the screen and radio actor was born William Claude Dukenfield, in Darby in 1880. Although it is commonly thought that Fields had disdain for Philadelphia, there is little evidence to support the claim, beyond a couple of comedy quips he gave in interviews. He lived with his grandmother in Philadelphia for a period of time, where Fields took jobs in a pool hall, as a newsboy, and as a cashier at Strawbridge’s to support himself. He eventually joined the Philadelphia vaudeville stage and began touring the world as a comic juggler.
Fields starred in dozens of films in the 30’s and 40’s and was known for his sarcastic wit and plump nose. He is commonly recognized as one of the great screen comedians on the 20th century.