Edward McNamara

For the mayor of Livonia, Michigan, see Edward H. McNamara.
McNamara circa 1913

Edward James McNamara (August 13, 1884 - November 10, 1944) was a Broadway and Hollywood actor.


He was born on August 13, 1884 in Paterson, New Jersey.[1][2] Rotund in build and with a booming baritone voice, he sang while a police officer in Paterson, New Jersey. One day in 1914 he was overheard singing "il Pagliacci Prologue" at the Patterson May Festival by world-famous German signer Madame Schumann Heink who lived in Caldwell New Jersey. She convinced him to seek a professional career in voice. She along with friend Senator Bill Hughes (also from New Jersey) introduced him to the worlds most famous singer, Italian Tenor Enrico Caruso. After hearing McNamara sing, Caruso called him "The most natural organ he had ever heard" and urged him to seek a professional teacher to help harness his raw vocal power and talent, to which Edward simply responded "Fine. What teacher?" Caruso replied, "Don't take a chance, I will teach you." And hence forth, McNamara became the only pupil of the worlds most legendary voice. He toured the US along with madame schumann heink entertaining audiences everywhere for 6 years, but his heart was never truly fully convinced of being a professional touring singer. His Broadway career started in 1926, and his Hollywood career started in 1929. He appeared in 18 films in total, mostly appearing in very brief roles and cameos, often ironically as a cop or a singing policeman, which was his somewhat publicly known nickname in the newspapers. He was a longtime dear friend and traveling companion of actor James Cagney and Cagney was sure to give him bit parts in 4 of his films. McNamara was also an honorary member of the "Irish Mafia" boys club, which was a group of actors during the 1930s of Irish descent (consisting of James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Frank McHugh, Spencer Tracy, Ralph Bellamy, Frank Morgan, Lynne Overman, Bert Lahr, Louis Calhern, Jimmy Gleason, Allen Jenkins and Robert Armstrong.) McNamara never considered showbiz a career, but merely a way to earn some money and spend time with friends. Cagney later said, "McNamara could have been one of the Metropolitan Opera's greatest stars, had he started younger and given himself over to the task. He was the perfect example of someone who could have had it all, but didn't want to pay the price." A member since 1928 of The Dutch Treat Club and the Player's, a high society social club for Artist in Manhattan, McNamara along with friend and co-club-member, cartoonist Denys Wortman were the driving force that convinced Mr.Cagney in 1936 to hide (and eventually move) to Martha's Vineyard while he was escaping from Jack Warner during his many famous contract disputes. Edward briefly returned to Police work for a time, while still dabbling in acting a bit. He died in 1944 in Boston Massachusetts at the age of 60, shortly after filming Arsenic and Old Lace. He had a massive heart attack on a train from the East Coast heading to California, as he was delivering 5 race horses to his friend Mr. Cagney. Cagney made mention in his autobiography that McNamara "Although the best friend that was ever known, he never kept of good health of himself which always disappointed me deeply." Services were held on Martha's Vineyard at the Congregational Church at West Tisbury. [3]


  1. "Edward James McNamara in the World War I draft registration". Selective Service. September 9, 1918. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  2. "Edward James McNamara in the World War II draft registration". Selective Service. 1942. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  3. To, Telephone (November 10, 1944). "Edward McNamara, Actor, Dies. Ex-Policeman Sang Way to Stage". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-21. Edward McNamara, well-known stage and screen player who sung himself off the Paterson, N.J., police force on to Broadway, died at 8:15 o'clock last night in South Station.

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