American actor Jay Novello began his film career with Tenth Avenue Kid (1938). Small, wiry and mustachioed, Novello found a home in Hollywood playing shifty street characters and petty thieves; during the war he displayed a friendlier image as a Latin-American type, appearing as waiters and hotel clerks in innumerable Good Neighbor films set south of the border. Once the war was over, it was back to those scraggly little characters, even in such period pieces as The Robe (1953), in which Novello played the unsavory slave dealer who sold Victor Mature to Richard Burton. Adept in TV comedy roles as meek milquetoasts and henpecked husbands, Novello was a particular favorite of Lucille Ball, who used the actor prominently in both I Love Lucy (first as the man duped by the "Ethel to Tillie" seance, then as a gondolier in a later episode) and The Lucy Show (as a softhearted safecracker). Jay Novello remained active in films into the '60s, as scurrilous as ever in such fantasy films as The Lost World (1960) and Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961); he also stayed busy in such TV programs as The Mothers in Law, My Three Sons and McHale's Navy, playing a recurring role in the latter series as a resourceful Italian mayor.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Son of Italian immigrants.
- Grew up in a diverse neighborhood and learned English, Greek and German along with his native tongue, Italian.
- Facility with languages got him radio work as a dialect specialist.
- Started out performing on the stock stage in the Chicago area.
- Worked often with Lucille Ball, appearing in multiple episodes of both I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show.