Thursday, July 28, 2016

Joe and Martha

Comic co-stars in $1,000 a Touchdown.
Happy birthday (in memoriam) to comedian Joe E. Brown (1891-1973), born July 28. He was Martha Raye's co-star in two films, but before they even met, they were compared to one another. One similarity was immediately apparent -- both were "big mouths," finding comedy fodder in their plus-sized kissers and mobile faces. Off-screen, both would devote considerable effort to supporting America's military men and women during wartime.

In 1939, they teamed up for $1,000 a Touchdown. Produced on a modest budget, the sports-accented comedy wasn't the top-notch production they deserved, but Joe and Martha made it fun nonetheless. Five years later, they joined forces to provide comic support to Betty Grable in Pin-Up Girl.

A couple of years ago, I had a mini-film festival of Joe E. Brown comedies, inspired by my reading of film historian Wes D. Gehring's Joe E. Brown: Film Comedian and Baseball Buffoon. That book not only gave me a better appreciation of Brown's comedic skills, but also paid tribute to someone who seems to have been a fine, admirable human being off-camera.

Happy birthday, Mr. Brown. You're remembered with fondness and admiration.

Friday, July 22, 2016

New Fall Catalog

My publisher's fall catalog has just been issued, full of enticing books due out in the next several months. Go here to have a look. I see several I want to read!

Thursday, July 14, 2016


And here comes the eBook version of Martha Raye: Film and Television Clown! Props to Barnes & Noble for being first out of the gate, with the Nook edition now on the market; Amazon and other providers surely won't be far behind.

Power on, and happy reading!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Fun with Martha

As I said in the preface to my new book on Martha Raye, I chose to focus primarily on her career as a comedienne in film and television, as opposed to her private life. Still, it's fair to say that marriage came up pretty often in the book, given her seven trips to the altar.

Just for the fun of it, see if you can guess which of those lucky gentlemen is pictured in the vintage photo at right. We'll even make it a multiple choice question. Which groom is pictured here?

a. Edward Begley
b. Nick Condos
c. Mark Harris
d. Neal Lang
e. Robert O'Shea
f. David Rose
g. Bud Westmore

Correct answer on Monday, unless someone posts it in the comments first. Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Eager for Seegar

Born July 1, 1914, Sara Seegar has a face that will be familiar to many classic TV fans. She may be best-known for playing the second Mrs. Wilson (wife to Gale Gordon's character) in the final season of Dennis the Menace. She also turned up fairly often, usually as a client or client's wife, on Bewitched. In researching my book on Martha Raye, I learned that she supported Miss Raye in several of her 1950s variety shows, whether on All Star Revue or The Martha Raye Show. Miss Seegar was a gifted character actress with a finely developed instinct for finding the funny moments in a script.

In private life, she was the wife of Ezra Stone, who went from playing Henry Aldrich onstage and in radio to a successful career as a producer and director. In a 1969 interview, Stone said that he and Sara met in 1940, when they shared the stage in an unsuccessful Broadway play. "In comparison to the show," he joked, "we looked good to each other, and got married."

Sara Seegar died in 1990, a few weeks past her 76th birthday; her widower passed away in 1994. Both made significant contributions to the world of show business, and deserve to be remembered, as we do in this small way today.