He created the role of Cap'n Andy in the original 1927 stage production of "Show Boat", a role which he repeated in the first (1932) Broadway revival and the 1936 film version (Show Boat (1936)) and which, from all accounts and the evidence provided in the 1936 film, became the greatest performance of his career.
He shared the same birth date - May 26 - with Joseph Urban, who designed the sets for the original Broadway stage production of "Show Boat", and Sammy Lee, who choreographed it.
He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Radio at 6333 Hollywood Boulevard.
His persona as a lovable captain was so well established from his having appeared in "Show Boat" that he was asked to play one yet again in A Perilous Journey (1953)).
Of all the actors who starred in the original Broadway production of "Show Boat" in 1927, he is by far the one who had the most prolific film and television career.
On TV, one of his most beloved appearances was as a nostalgic guest star on a 1954 episode of "I Love Lucy" (1951) in which he played an old vaudevillian partner of Fred Mertz's (William Frawley). In the show the two, who once billed themselves as "Mertz & Kurtz," sing a couple of cute ditties: "Oh By Jingo" and "I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad." Later, Winninger joined the entire "Lucy" cast for a musical revue at Ricky's Tropicana Club, where numbers included "On the Boardwalk to Atlantic City," "By the Beautiful Sea" and "I Found a Peach on the Beach." Both Frawley and Winninger were vaudevillians in real life.