This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Billy Jack Long is a professional musician and author from Southern California. Any paid advertising you see on this page was not put her by Bill. Ignore it and it should go away.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Joe E. Brown (1892-1973)

Joseph Evan Brown was born July 28, 1892, in Holgate, Ohio, the third of seven children. Joe said he was the only child who ran away to join the circus when he was ten with his parents' blessing. In 1902, he joined a tumbling act called the Five Marvelous Ashtons. The group toured with circuses and visited various theaters around the country. For all that hard work, Joe earned $1.50 a week. Toward the end of that career, he got another dollar a week. It all ended in San Francisco in 1906 with the earthquake. Joe was 14 and ready to start something new.

The greatest love of Joe's life was baseball. He played for a team in Toledo which was sponsored by a bar (that was a nice place for a teenager!) Joe was very accident prone and broke his back several times. But the man was built like a Sherman tank! Seeing his face, all that could be seen was his big mouth. But he had an athlete's body up for most of his life.

He married Kathryn Francis McGraw, a nice Ohio girl who loved everything about Joe. They had four children, two sons (Don Evan Brown and Joe L. Brown) and a daughters (Kathryn Frances and Mary Elizabeth).

When they had Don, their first child, Joe worked as a manager of a bowling alley. This was after he spent time as a semiprofessional baseball player. Within five years, he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. And, just as easy as that came, five years after that, he signed up with one producer, David L. Loew, and his career went down fast. However, it was during this time that, in 1939, he did a comedy variety show on the CBS network. It was similar to the Jack Benny Program. In fact, Don Wilson was his announcer.

Most people would easily forget this program if it hadn't been for something that happened on September 21, 1939. Ironically, this was his show's last episode. But one radio station, WJSV, the CBS owned and operated station licensed to Washington, DC, recorded its entire broadcast schedule for the day. The Joe E. Brown Show (sponsored by Post Toasties, the Wake-Up Food), aired at 6:30 pm, Eastern Daylight Time.

Tragedy struck Joe with the beginning of World War II, when his son Don was killed when the bomber he was flying for the U.S. Army Air Force crashed on a routine training mission near Palm Springs, California.

Eventually, Joe's career was back on track. He did two of the biggest films of this blogger's lifetime with Some Like It Hot (1959) and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). He did numerous television guest spots.

Joe died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 80 on July 6, 1973. Everything he ever did was for his family. He never stooped to telling dirty jokes or being involved in anything he couldn't show to his mother, even long after she died.

He eloped with his wife, marrying her at the office of a Justice of the Peace. He promised her that someday, there would be a church wedding. That happened twenty years later, at the local Episcopal church (Joe's church preference) with his son Joe as best man and son Don gave the bride away. The daughters acted as maids of honor. Later, when Kathryn, his wife, decided that she would reaffirm her faith in the Roman Catholic faith, Joe decided to convert. And they got married again in a Catholic church. So, he is probably the only person on this list who was married three times without ever being divorced or widowered!


Sr42nato said...

Great story and wonderfully written. Have enjoyed Mr. Brown's movies very much and from it all it is pretty obvious he was a great human being who gave a lot of love to all who crossed his paths throughout his life/

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Unknown said...

According to the picture of his headstone on find a grave, he was born in 1891.

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