Clifford Charles “Cliff” Arquette (December 27, 1905 — September 23, 1974) was an American actor and comedian, famous for his TV role as Charley Weaver.
Arquette was born in Toledo, Ohio, the son of Winifred (née Clark) and Charles Augustus Arquette, a vaudevillian. He was the patriarch of the Arquette show business family, which became famous because of him. Arquette was the father of the late actor Lewis Arquette and the grandfather of actors Patricia, Rosanna, Alexis (originally Robert), Richmond, and David Arquette. He was a night club pianist, later joining the Henry Halstead orchestra in 1923.
Arquette had been a busy, yet not nationally known, performer in radio, theatre, and motion pictures until 1956, when he retired from show business. At one time, he was credited with performing in 13 different daily radio shows at different stations in the Chicago market, getting from one studio to the other by way of motorboats along the Chicago River through its downtown. One such radio series he performed on was The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok Arquette and Dave Willock had their own radio show, Dave and Charley, in the early 1950s as well as a television show by the same name that was on the air for three months. Arquette performed on the shows as Charley Weaver.
The story that Arquette later told about his big break was that one night in the late 1950s he was watching The Tonight Show. Host Jack Paar happened to ask the rhetorical question, “Whatever became of Cliff Arquette?” That startled Arquette so much that, “I almost dropped my Scotch!”
In 1959, Arquette accepted Paar’s invitation to perform on Paar’s NBC Tonight Show. Arquette depicted the character of “Charley Weaver, the wild old man from Mount Idy.” He would bring along, and read, a letter from his “Mamma” back home. This characterization proved so popular that Arquette almost never again appeared in public as himself, but nearly always as Charley Weaver, complete with his squashed hat, little round glasses, rumpled shirt, broad tie, baggy pants, and suspenders.
Although a good number of Arquette’s jokes appear ‘dated’ now (and, arguably, even back then), he could still often convulse Paar and the audience into helpless laughter by way of his timing and use of double entendres in describing the misadventures of his fictional family and townspeople. As Paar noted, in his foreword to Arquette’s first Charley Weaver book:
“Sometimes his jokes are old, and I live in the constant fear that the audience will beat him to the punch line, but they never have. And I suspect that if they ever do, he will rewrite the ending on the spot. I would not like to say that all his jokes are old, although some have been found carved in stone. What I want to say is that in a free-for-all ad lib session, Charley Weaver has and will beat the fastest gun alive.”
Arquette, as Charley Weaver, hosted Charley Weaver’s Hobby Lobby on ABC from September 30, 1959 to March 23, 1960.
Arquette also appeared as Charley Weaver on the short-lived The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show on ABC from September 29 to December 29, 1962.
Arquette was also a frequent guest on NBC’s The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, the short-lived The Dennis Day Show in the 1953-1954 season, and on The Jack Paar Show after Paar left The Tonight Show.