Happy 124th Birthday, Joe E. Brown!

Joe E. Brown was born Joseph Evans Brown 124 years ago today in Holgate, Ohio. He’s best remembered today for the role of millionaire Osgood Fielding III in Billy Wilder‘s Some Like It Hot (1959), but he starred in dozens of feature-length comedies in the 1930s and ’40s. Here are 10 JEB Did-You-Knows:

  • At the age of 10, Brown, with the blessings of his parents, joined a traveling tumbling act, the Five Marvellous Ashtons, that played vaudeville and circuses.
  • In 1920, Brown made his Broadway debut in a review called Jim Jam Jems. Throughout that decade, he continued to hone his comic chops and in 1929, he was hired to star in comedy features for Warner Brothers.
  • Though he appeared small onscreen and generally played ineffectual nebbishes, he was actually quite athletic, having played semi-pro baseball for a time, and his physique, occasionally displayed in his pictures, was very impressively defined.
  • During World War II, Brown let his movie career lag while he worked tirelessly to entertain the troops in Europe. He was one of just two civilians to be awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts.
  • After the war, Brown and his wife adopted two German-Jewish refugee girls, naming them Mary Katherine Ann and Kathryn Francis.
  • Brown’s first-born son, Don Evan, who was a Captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps, died during World War II in a plane crash. His second son, Joe L. Brown, grew up to be a baseball executive, serving as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his tenure, the Bucs won the 1960 World Series, defeating the New York Yankees in a seven-game series.
  • Beginning in 1924, Brown was a lifelong member of The Lambs, a NYC theatrical club that was found in 1874.
  • In 1948, Brown won a special Tony award for his performance as Elwood P. Dowd in the touring company of Harvey. The award cited Brown for “spreading theater to the country while the original performs in New York.”
  • Brown twice contributed first-person stories to Norman Vincent Peale‘s inspirational publication, Guideposts; the stories appeared in the June 1948 and June 1962 editions of the magazine.
  • Joe and his wife, Kathryn were married nearly 58 years, until his death in 1973.

Happy birthday, Joe E. Brown, wherever you may be!

Joe E. Brown

Irene Dunne: Wish You Were Here

Guideposts is a magazine that was founded in 1945 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking. Over the years, the publication has run many stories by stars and performers from the Cladrite Era, and we thought we might share one of them with you every now and then…

Wish You Were Here by Irene Dunne (December 1951)

Irene DunneAt an evening party in my home several months ago, a fascinated group gathered around former Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce, who held her audience, not by brilliant discourse on politics or the theatre, but by her eloquent statements on her personal religious convictions.

An elderly gentleman smoked his cigar and listened quietly. When the party broke up, he turned to me and, shaking his head admiringly, he said, “You see, she’s just too smart not to be on the safe side!”

I was amused, but later on, as I went about ashtrays and putting out lights, I thought again about my guest’s remark. What he doubtless meant to say was, “She’s too smart not to be on God’s side.” How hard it is for most of us to talk about our religious feelings, I mused. But to tell others about them, to share your treasure, is so important, for surely the best way to keep your religion is to give it away freely.

Now I am no theologian, no scholar, not even a writer. I ask myself, “How can I find a simple, uncomplicated, sincere way of telling others about the richness, satisfaction, and joy that my religion brings to my life, so that they, too, may desire to open the door and let God in?”

Then it occurred to me it was something like seeing your friends for the first time since your return from a wonderful trip—let’s call this a heavenly trip. You had such a glorious time, you’ve already sent post cards, saying, “Wish you were here.” If you have the gift of words, your description of the place will make them want to go.

Even if you have not the gift, they will note that your trip has refreshed and restored you; your step is buoyant, your heart is light. The place where you have been, and still reside in secret, has done so much for you that all who come in contact with you will yearn to go there too. They want their cup filled to overflowing as is yours.
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