b. Imogene Fernandez de Coca, 18 November 1908, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 2 June 2001, Westport, Connecticut, USA. Born into a showbusiness family, Coca’s father was a conductor, her mother a dancer, and Imogene started out to be a dancer. She appeared on Broadway in When You Smile (1925, which starred Jeanette MacDonald), Garrick Gaieties (1930), Shoot The Works (1931), and Flying Colors (1932). Adding comedy to her dance routines, the diminutive and dynamic Coca first attracted critical and audience acclaim in New Faces Of 1934. Theatrical legend has it that the heating failed and she was sent on to distract the audience while it was fixed. She appeared in Fools Rush In (1934), New Faces Of 1936 (1936), Who’s Who (1938), and The Straw Hat Revue (1939). During the years she played theatres she also worked in nightclubs, including The Silver Slipper, Café Society Downtown and Le Ruban Bleu. Her act included biting parodies of showbusiness stars and she sang with verve and attack.
Theatrical engagements in the 40s include All In Fun (1940) and Concert Varieties (1945). In 1950 Coca made her breakthrough, joining Sid Caesar in NBC’s live television comedy, Your Show Of Shows. She had been on television before, in the late 40s, but this new show, which had begun in 1949 as The Admiral Broadway Revue, took its stars through the roof along with the ratings. Energetic, unpredictable, and with a lively comic imagination, Coca was a superb foil for Caesar. When the show ended in 1954, she went on to star in The Imogene Coca Show (1954) and also appeared in Sid Caesar Invites You (1958), and other television series, situation comedies and specials through into the 80s, including The Andy Williams Show (1964), The Dean Martin Show (1966), The Carol Burnett Show (1968/9), The Jackie Gleason Show (1968), Bewitched (1971), and The Return Of The Beverly Hillbillies (1981). Her final Broadway appearance was as Letitia Primrose in On The Twentieth Century (1978), for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. Her final film appearance was in Buy & Cell (1989). Her last television roles came in Alice In Wonderland (1985, as the Cook), and Hollywood: The Movie (1996, as Roxy). Her last years were spent in seclusion as she suffered the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.