Short, dapper Jay Novello specialized in playing ethnic types, sometimes Spanish, Greek or Mexican but usually Italian–not surprising, since his parents were Italian immigrants and he grew up speaking the language before he learned English. Born in Chicago in 1904, he came from a very diverse neighborhood and, in addition to speaking Italian and English, also picked up a working knowledge of German and Greek. He got a job acting with various theater companies in the Chicago area, and his facility with languages got him work in radio as a dialect specialist. He soon moved to Hollywood and got work in the radio industry there, and made his film debut in an uncredited bit part in 1930. He played in everything from westerns to action pictures to serials (in one of which, The Adventures of Smilin’ Jack (1943), he played a Japanese spy!). He did much television work, and one of his best known roles was as the scheming Mayor Lugato in the Ernest Borgnine comedy series McHale’s Navy (1962). He died of lung cancer in North Hollywood in 1982.
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