He was famous for his comic and character roles on stage and screen, especially that of Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady. He was also known for his comic monologues and songs, which he performed and recorded in his 70-year career.
He was married to Alice Foran from 1913 until they divorced in 1937. Then he was married to Violet Lane from 1939 until his death in 1982. He had five children.