Don Ameche Overview:

Legendary actor, Don Ameche, was born Dominic Felix Amici on May 31, 1908 in Kenosha, WI. Ameche died at the age of 85 on Dec 6, 1993 in Scottsdale, AZ and was laid to rest in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Dubuque, IA.

Early Life

Don Ameche was born Dominic Felix Amici on May 31st, 1908 in Kenosha, Wisconsin and was second of eight children. His father, Felice, was an Italian immigrant, whose legitimate line of work was as bar owner and his mother, Barbara, stayed home to look after the kids. His father was volatile man; always carrying around revolver should anything he regarded as "trouble were to break out. His bar was one of the most popular local bar and he was said to have he ran with an iron fist, using said fists to throw out any unruly patrons with the gall to cause a ruckus in his establishment. Although Felice ran a legal bar, he made extra money in a very illegitimate manner through the smuggling Italian immigrants into the United States at around a thousand dollars a head. Rather than follow his father into the bar and human smuggling business, the young Ameche stayed away from his father's racket because, frankly, it scared him. As a child he joined his school's  basketball team as a means of spending time away from home, and eventually cultivated a love for the theatre, acting in many of his school's staged productions.  After graduating from high school in 1926, Ameche went to study at Dubuque's Columbia College. However, when the Depression hit in 1929, Ameche was forced to suspend his education in order to help his family financially.  When Ameche returned to his education, he attended the University of Wisconsin with the intention of fulfilling his father's wishes of becoming an attorney. However, the young man found himself more interesting in George Bernard Shaw than state or federal law and abandoning his legal studies in favor of the theatre.

Early Career

After leaving college to pursue acting full-time, Ameche began working the on vaudeville and summer stock circuits, improving his craft at any venue possible. At the start of the 1930s, Ameche began to take advantage of his soothing speaking voice by making a name for himself in radio. Now living in Chicago, Ameche first made his mark over the airwaves with the series Empire Builders, and went on to star in another popular radio series First Nighter. His talents lead Ameche to the west coast, where he became the host of The Chase and Sanborn Hour. By the mid-1930s Ameche began trying to actively pursue a film career. After an unsuccessful screen test with MGM in 1933, Ameche worked tirelessly to appear on the silver screen. He managed to obtain a small role in the film Clive of India, which led him to screen test for 20th Century Fox. Although his screen test of admittedly lackluster, Fox studiohead Darryl F. Zanuck nonetheless saw the potential in the young actor and signed him to a long-term contract.


In 1935 Ameche made his first film with as a contracted player in 1935 with an uncredited role in the big screen adaptation of Dante's Inferno. The next year he would make his first notable screen appearance in the drama Sins of Man. He was then put on the fast track to stardom, next appearing opposite Loretta Young in Ramona. Although not conventionally handsome leading man nor dashing adventurer, Ameche's air of sophistication and ease allowed him carve his own niche as a charming co-lead in string of comedies such as Ladies in Love, One in a Million and Love is News. Ameche also proved adept at drama, starring opposite Tyrone Power and Alice Faye in In Old Chicago. In 1938 he began to star in his own vehicles albeit with smaller budget such as Gateway and Josette. That year Ameche also re-teamed with Tyrone Power and Alice Faye for yet another musical romance, Alexander's  Ragtime Band. The film was huge hit; with audiences and critics alike agreeing that Ameche's skillful performance was one of the highlights of an already delightful movie. In 1939 Ameche starred in the historical biographical picture The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, play the titular role. Thanks to his well-crafted performance of the great inventor, the term "Amece" became common slang for a telephone. That year he was also voted the 21st most popular star in Hollywood.

As the new decade took hold, Ameche remained on of the biggest stars at Fox. He starred in series of successful musicals and comedies such as Down Argentine Way, Moon Over Miami, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, and The Feminine Touch. His biggest hit from that time period came in 1943 with Ernest Lubitsch film Heaven Can Wait opposite Gene Tierney. In the film Ameche plays the now deceased Henry Van Cleve, who arrives at Hell's door, hoping to prove to His Excellency (AKA the devil) that that is where he belongs. The film was smash hit, doubling its budget at the box-office and even earning a Best Picture Academy Award nomination.

After Fox

Despite the success of Heaven Can Wait, Ameche soon found himself starring in one forgettable film after the next. After completing the filming for Greenwich Village, Ameche opted not to renew his contract with Fox, even though he was offered an increase in salary. Instead, Ameche became a free agent, taking the risk of less employment if it meant more creative freedom with his career. Although he managed to star in some forgettable films such as So Goes my Love and Sleep, My Love, by the mid-1940s Ameche's popularity was now vested once again in the medium of radio, instead of film. From 1946 to 1951 he starred in the radio series The Bickersons, a half-hour sitcom focusing on an endlessly quarreling couple, who, when all is said and done, seem made for each other. By the end of the series run, Ameche moved east to New York and began working mostly in television and the theater.

Starting in the 1950s, Ameche began appearing frequently on television. His first venture to the small screen was with a late 1949 appearance on The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, followed his own show, Don Ameche's Musical Playhouse in 1950. He continued to make regular appearances on the tube with series like Family Theatre, Goodyear Playhouse, and with TV movies such as Fire One. In 1955 Ameche made his Broadway debut in the musical Silk Stockings, and would continue working on the New York stage with hits such as the comedy Holiday for Lovers and Goldilocks. When his run with Goldilocks ended in 1959, he became the host of the television show To Tell the Truth. He continued hosting duties with the series International Showtime, scouting the globe to show the great television audiences the finest circus performers in the world. He remained in television for the next two decades, only occasionally appearing in a low budget film such as 1966's Picture Mommy Dead and 1970's Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came.

A Third Wind and Later Career

By the 1980s, Ameche's career was relegated to small appearances on TV shows, with his film career solidly behind him. He already had one comeback and it's not like people get another in this industry. Except he did. In 1983 he played a supporting but influential role in the John Landis comedy Trading Places, with Eddy Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. His turn as the callous millionaire bent on ruining an innocent mans life for the sake of a one-dollar bet had modern audiences rolling in their seats. This led him to being cast in the Ron Howard science-fiction comedy Cocoon. In the film Ameche plays Art Selwyn, one of a group of seniors rejuvenated by accidental exposure to alien cocoons. The film was sleeper hit and at the age of 77, Ameche won his first and only Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. With a new wind in Hollywood, Ameche kept working. He made a quick appearance in the John Landis 1988 comedy Coming to America and starred in Cocoon: The Return. The next year he made his final curtain call on Broadway appearing in a revival of the popular play Our Town. He then made an appearance the popular televisions show The Golden Girls in 1990 and in 1992 he provided the voice of Shadow in the family movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. By now he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and, despite relishing in his late-career renaissance, was forced to slow down his hectic work pace. He made his final silver screen performance in the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina but would pass-away before its release. Don Ameche died on December 6th, 1993. He was 85 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Don Ameche was nominated for one Academy Award, winning for Best Supporting Actor for Cocoon (as Art Selwyn) in 1985.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1985Best Supporting ActorCocoon (1985)Art SelwynWon

He was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Television and Radio. Don Ameche's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #41 on Jan 27, 1938. In addition, Ameche was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame .

BlogHub Articles:

meets “His Excellency” in “Heaven Can Wait” (1943)

By Stephen Reginald on Dec 4, 2020 From Classic Movie Man

meets “His Excellency” in “Heaven Can Wait” (1943) Heaven Can Wait (1943) is an American comedy produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. It stars Gene Tierney, , and Charles Coburn. The film is shot in beautiful 20th Century-Fox Technicolor.The plot ... Read full article

Ameche, Young, and Fonda tell... The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939)

By Michaela on Jan 3, 2016 From Love Letters to Old Hollywood

When you read the words "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell," if you haven't seen it, you probably think "This sounds terrible." I mean, it must be a stuffy, fact-stretching, superficial account of a man who is suddenly deemed faultless and highly moral, right? Well, you'd be partially correct. Like... Read full article

Claudette Colbert and are John Barrymore's parents in... Midnight (1939)

By Michaela on Jun 19, 2015 From Love Letters to Old Hollywood

Let's all say a big, collective "Happy birthday!" to the one and only Billy Wilder. To celebrate the director's birthday on June 22nd, I'm taking part in this wonderful blogathon. You simply must read the other posts. You wouldn't want to upset Mr. Wilder, would you? *****************************... Read full article

Hollywood Home Tour -

By The Metzinger Sisters on Jan 6, 2014 From Silver Scenes - A Blog for Classic Film Lovers

We're off again on our bus tour, but this time we're going a little ways off the beaten track and taking a spin around Encino to see the beautiful ranch home of the debonair actor, . Here's Al to tell you more about Don and his home : "Welcome back to the bus folks, and a very happy new y... Read full article

Hollywood Home Tour -

By The Metzinger Sisters on Jan 6, 2014 From Silver Scenes - A Blog for Classic Film Lovers

We're off again on our bus tour, but this time we're going a little ways off the beaten track and taking a spin around Encino to see the beautiful ranch home of the debonair actor, . Here's Al to tell you more about Don and his home : "Welcome back to the bus folks, and a very happy new y... Read full article

See all articles

Don Ameche Quotes:

Dwight Dawson: That kiss took five years off my life... ...hey, careful, I'll be too young to vote!

Alexander Graham Bell: Your honor... Have I committed some offense by starving in an attic? by spending sleepless nights at my work? by being too poor to own a decent scrap of paper, on which to tell her of my love? I have sat here for days and heard myself called liar, thief, fraud and cheat. I've seen my friends humiliated, my invention belittled, just as I have seen my business destroyed by methods which must leave every honest man appalled.

Stella Kirby: You haven't left me with a word to say.
Charlie Dwyer: That's good. People talk too much anyway.

read more quotes from Don Ameche...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Also a Gemini

See All Geminis >>
Best Supporting Actor Oscar 1985

See more Best Supporting Actor awards>>
Grauman's Imprints

Also at Grauman's

See All Imprint Ceremonies >>
Don Ameche on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Don Ameche Facts
Americans pronounced his last name incorrectly in Italian ("Ah-mee-see"). So he changed it from "Amici" (correctly pronounced "Ah-mee-chee") into "Ameche", in order to keep the original Italian pronunciation.

He became a major star on radio. His teaming with Frances Langford as "The Bickersons" is regarded as classic comedy on radio. "The Bickersons" were revived for a series or record albums.

He was awarded two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television at 6101 Hollywood Boulevard and for Radio at 6313 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>
Radio Hall of Fame

Also in the Radio Hall of Fame

See All Radio Hall of Fame Inductees >>