Born in Italy, Henry Armetta stowed away on an American-bound boat in 1902. While employed as a pants-presser at New York's Lambs Club, Armetta befriended Broadway star Raymond Hitchcock, who secured Armetta a small role in his stage play A Yankee Consul. A resident of Hollywood from 1923, the hunch-shouldered, mustachioed Armetta gained fame in the 1930s in innumerable roles as excited, gesticulating Italians. Often cast as barbers or restaurateurs, Armetta was so popular that he was frequently awarded with extraneous bit roles that were specially written for him (vide 1933's Lady for a Day). Laurel and Hardy fans will remember Armetta as the flustered innkeeper who is kept awake nights trying to emulate Laurel's "kneesie-earsie-nosie" game in The Devil's Brother (1933). In the late 1930s, Armetta was briefly starred in a series of auto-racing films, bearing titles like Road Demon and Speed to Burn. He also headlined several short-subject series, notably RKO's "Nick and Tony" comedies of the early 1930s. Henry Armetta died of a sudden heart attack shortly after completing his scenes in 20th Century-Fox's A Bell for Adano (1945).
by Hal Erickson biography