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.

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