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

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Joseph Kearns (1907-62)

Joseph Smith Kearns was born February 12, 1907, in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a child, his family moved to Southern California. He returned to Utah to complete his college education at the University of Utah with a degree in music. He paid his tuition by teaching a course in theatrical makeup.

Joe returned to California to work as a movie theater organist. As talking pictures were taking over, eventually his services as a musician were no longer needed. Since he had worked as an actor in plays as a child, he tried his hand at this again.

But the biggest change in his life happened in 1937 when he got the part of the Crazy Quilt Dragon for the series, the Cinnamon Bear. A few years after this, he would become the Man in Black for Suspense. When Bill Forman was drafted in World War II, Joe took over his part of the Whistler on the Whistler. He also acted in many episodes on these and other radio series. Besides acting, Joe also wrote for and directed some episodes. Joe had a recurring role on the Jack Benny Program as Ed the night watchman. This was a classic comedy role.

After radio, Joe had a very similar career on television, first appearing on the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. His most famous role came ten years later, when he played George Wilson on Dennis the Menace. Sadly, before the last season was over, Joe died of a heart attack five days after his 55th birthday on February 17, 1962, in Los Angeles. He was replaced by Gale Gordon, who played his brother, John Wilson (even though he looked more like the George Wilson character in the comic strip!)

Music was very important to Joe. His Hollywood house was built around a huge theater organ.

He was also a devout Mormon who hated it when he had to read a commercial for Roma Wines (sponsor of Suspense). However, he thought enough of that program to write several scripts.



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