Family & Companions
Italian-American Jay Novello was a swarthy wee character actor who emerged from the early days of radio to portray furtive, twitchy ethnic types and fastidious, comically prissy characters in nearly 200 film and television roles. Throughout the 1930s and '40s, he established himself as a big-screen bit player with dozens of uncredited appearances in such madcap larks and spirited adventure films as the gleefully frenzied Laurel and Hardy outing "The Bullfighters." Around the time, he landed one of his most substantial roles in the pastoral divine-intervention drama "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima" ('52), the iconic funny-lady Lucille Ball fully tapped his comedic potential and cast him in several recurring parts on various television projects. On her flagship sitcom, the inimitable "I Love Lucy," he memorably played a hammy, histrionic fussbudget who holds a séance in a desperate attempt to contact his deceased pooch in the afterlife. The performance launched his nearly two-decade run as a frequent, usually flamboyant, guest star on such beloved sitcom hits as the satirical "F-Troop," the sly "McHale's Navy," and the racially charged "Chico and the Man." Having grown up in a culturally diverse Chicago neighborhood, Novello also used his ear for accents to appear as various fiery and ostentatious Greeks, Mexicans, and Spaniards in the peripheries of many films, including Elvis Presley's Arabian adventure "Harum Scarum" and director Frank Capra's elegant comedy-of-manners "Pocketful of Miracles" ('61). He died of lung cancer at age 78.