You may not recognize the name Jay Novello, but I’m certain you recognize his very expressive face – from more places than you may realize.
This delightful character actor was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 22, 1904 to Italian parents – explaining why he learned to speak Italian before English. He died in 1982 from lung cancer, but we’re here to keep memories alive, and Jay Novello has provided us with some great material to draw from!
He has a very impressive filmography resume – having worked in just about every genre imaginable. He even played a Japanese spy in Adventures of Smilin’ Jack (1943). He is, however, best known for his work on television. Many people remember him as the scheming Mayor Lugato in “McHale’s Navy” (1962). Since I’ve never seen a single episode of McHale’s Navy, I’m not at all familiar with his work on the show. He did, however, appear on two series that I haven’t gone a day without watching since I can’t remember when: I Love Lucy and Andy Griffith.
He had several very memorable roles on I Love Lucy:
“Mario” in the episode titled Visitor from Italy (1956)
“Mr. Beecher” in the episode titled The Sublease (1954) – He was hilarious as the extremely nervous tenant who Lucy tries to scare off after Fred and Ethel Mertz put a classified in the paper.
Mr. Merriweather in the episode titled The Seance (1951) – As a highly strung man trying to contact “Tillie” on the other side.
He also left his mark on Andy Griffith:
Jay Novello showed more of his straight man side to the one and only Don Knotts in two classic episodes of Andy Griffith. In Guest of Honor, He played a thief who tricked Barney into thinking he was a hotel detective. He even convinced Barney that the actual hotel detective was the crook. In Otis Sues the County, he played the sleazy attorney, Neil Bentley.
You may also recognize him from Make Room for Daddy (1958), The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (as Carlos De La Marca in 2 episodes, 1957-1958), Zorro (5 episodes, 1958), The Donna Reed Show (1960), Wagon Train (1960), The Lucy Show (1962), Perry Mason (1962), The Untouchables (Gino Romaldi, 1963), My Three Sons (Vincenzo in an episode from 1966), Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. (2 episodes as Dr. Purdy, 1967-1969), Lassie (1968), Family Affair (3 episodes, 1969), Bonanza (2 episodes, 1965 and 1969), The Flying Nun (1969), Ironside (1971), The Mod Squad (2 episodes, 1969-1971), The Brady Bunch (as Mr. Martinelli in an episode from 1973), Kojak (1976), Chico and the Man (1976)…..
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to learn much about Jay Novello’s personal life. His wife’s name was Paticia and they had one daughter, Yvonne. One of my favorite ways to get a handle on someone is to read their quotes, but I haven’t been able to find even one. I’m still on the hunt, though, so check back.
Mr. Novello may have something to say and you wouldn’t want to miss it!