aka Dominic Felix Amici
Born May 31, 1908 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His parents were Felix and Barbara Ameche. The couple also had another child, a younger son named Jim.
Ameche's initial educational goal was toward a career in the practice of law. He was enrolled at St. Birchman's Boys Academy in Dubuque, Iowa where he discovered a love for the dramatic arts. Continuing in the Dubuque area while pursuing higher education at Loras College, he continued his acting interests. Later he relocated to Chicago to further his educational goals.
Finding his niche
While in Chicago, Ameche found work in radio, a medium he was to frequent for decades. He broke into the New York arts scene in 1930, appearing on stage. He made his mark in radio with The Chase and Sanborn Hour as well as in The Bickersons, co-starring with Francis Langford. Don Ameche also worked alongside his brother Jim in Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy, with Jim in the title role from 1933-1938.
His first film role came in a 1933 short feature followed by other roles. He was signed by 20th Century Fox and became a staple male lead, light comedy, drama, and musicals becoming his genre.
The role which best exemplifies his work of the time was in Heaven Can Wait, (1943). The slender, razor-thin mustachioed actor worked steadily in films through the 30s until the 50s when his opportunities decreased. During the era of his greatest popularity his rich baritone voice, bland style and good looks made him a household name. In his title role as Alexander Graham Bell he gained such popularity that for years afterward the telephone was called 'the Ameche', and he was often jokingly credited with invention of the device.
Ebb and flow in his career
As the tide of his career retreated, Don Ameche still found occasional work in films and on infrequent TV appearances throughout the 60s and 70s, as well as employment in voice over work. Ameche popped up in such varied programming as Petticoat Junction, McCloud, and Quincy.
His career enjoyed a revival with his role in Trading Places, (1983). The role led to his appearing in the Ron Howard directed film Cocoon, (1985). His work in portraying a retirement home Lothario earned him an Oscar Award for Best Supporting Actor. Ameche continued to work in films up until the very end, his last appearance with Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta in Corrina, Corrina, (1994), released after his death.
During his career which spanned almost 6 decades, Don Ameche had worked in radio, on stage, in film, and TV. He had been a singer, a leading man, and a very capable supporting player. His career had been a roller coaster ride, taking him from the heights to the depths and back again.
Some of the accomplishments of Don Ameche in his career follow:
- Oscar- Best Supporting Actor (Cocoon, 1985)
- Inductee- Radio Hall of Fame (1992)
- Hollywood Walk of Fame (television)
- Venice Film Festival- Best Actor (Things Change, 1988).
Don Ameche married Honore Prendergast, a hospital dietician and lab technician in 1932. The couple had 6 children. Honore, eschewing the life of a star wife, chose to remain in Dubuque, Iowa and raise the family. Don Ameche and Honore were married until her death in 1978.
Mr. Ameche himself fell to prostate cancer on December 6, 1993, passing while at his son's home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was cremated and his ashes returned to Iowa for burial in an unmarked grave at the family plot of his wife in Dubuque.