Dennis Day (May 21, 1916 – June 22, 1988) born Owen Patrick Eugene McNulty, was an American singer, radio, television and film personality and comedian of Irish descent.
Dennis was christened Owen Patrick McNulty on May 21, 1917 in Bronx, New York, the son of an Ireland-born stationary engineer. The strength and promise of his lilting tenor was first discovered while performing with his glee club at St. Patrick's Cathedral High School. Graduating from Manhattan College, he first had designs on a law career and starting singing in order to earn money for tuition. By himself, he recorded "I Never Knew Heaven Could Speak" and distributed the song out to various radio producers, one of whom presented it to Mary Livingston, Benny's wife.
She was so taken that she insisted he be considered for her husband's popular radio show "The Jack Benny Show". When the show's then-tenor Kenny Baker objected to being a featherbrained foil to Benny on the show and gave notice, Dennis auditioned and won a regular spot, and the idea of law school became a thing of the past. Making his debut on the Benny show on October 8, 1939, Dennis' innocent-eyed teenager (he was actually 21 at the time) often drew more laughs than Benny himself in their rapport together. His career was interrupted by World War II when he served with the Navy. He was discharged in 1946.
Dennis legally adopted his professional name in 1944 against his family's wishes. The strict Irish-Catholic married Peggy Almquist in 1948 and the couple had ten children (six daughters, four sons). Dennis and his family settled in Los Angeles where he became an honorary mayor of Mandeville Canyon. He and his wife also owned an antique shop in Santa Monica for a time.
His cherry-cheeked, wide-eyed charm delighted scores of radio fans and the fame Dennis received from the show drew invitations to other radio programs, and eventually his own radio show "A Day in the Life of Dennis Day" in 1946. Here he played (naturally) a naive soda jerk. But he never left Benny, staying true-blue to the
|Dennis & Jack Benny|
Dennis also appeared in support of Benny on film. Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), marked Dennis' movie debut and in it he sang "My Kind of Country." Other sporadic filming emphasizing his vocal prowess were for the most part "B"-level musical
entertainment. These included Sleepy Lagoon (1943), Music in Manhattan (1944), I'll Get By (1950), Golden Girl (1951), The Girl Next Door (1953), and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) . For the soundtrack of My Wild Irish Rose (1947), a biopic about Chauncey Olcott, Day provided the singing voice to the acting of Dennis Morgan.
Despite these agreeable outings, he never came close to becoming a musical film star perhaps because he was too identified with his cheery, naive image on radio and TV. Once he finished The Girl Next Door (1953) which again starred Ms. Haver, Dennis was nowhere to be seen on celluloid for at least another two decades. Walt Disney also welcomed Dennis' sunny tenor in his animated features The Legend of Johnny Appleseed (1948), in which Dennis sang the title song, and Melody Time (1948).
Best known for his recording of Irish tunes, including such novelty songs as "Clancy Lowered the Boom", Dennis won over the ladies with his romantic covers of such ballads as "Mam'selle," "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" and "Mona Lisa." Occasionally he was given dramatic work on TV but nothing really came of it, coming off much better as a guest in musical variety shows. He continued to perform at conventions and fairs throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and was seen only occasionally in film and TV parts as he refused any work he deemed objectionable.In 1987 Dennis had been diagnosed as having Lou Gehrig's disease, the common name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a crippling nerve disorder. In April 1988 he undergone brain surgery to control internal bleeding that occurred after he fell at his home. He died on June 22, 1988 after a long illness at his Bel Air, home in California. He was 71 years old. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6646 Hollywood Boulevard. He is interred in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery. (Info mainly edited from IMDb)