Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joe E. Brown, Marie Dressler

Who was born in this date:

Actor Joe E. Brown was born on July 28, 1891 in Holgate, Ohio. He was an American actor and comedian, remembered for his amiable screen persona, comic timing, and enormous smile. He quickly shot to stardom after appearing in the first all-color all-talking musical comedy, On with the Show (1929). He starred in a number of lavish Technicolor Warner Brothers musical comedies including: Sally (1929), Hold Everything (1930), and Song of the West (1930)," Going Wild (1930)". By 1931, Joe E. Brown had become such a star that his name began to appear alone above the title of the movies in which he appeared. Other notable film credits include Fireman, Save My Child (1932),  Elmer, the Great (1933), Alibi Ike (1935) Son of a Sailor (1933), A Very Honorable Guy (1934), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) and Polo Joe (1936).

He left Warner Brothers to work for producer David L. Loew, starring in When's Your Birthday? (1937) and The Gladiator (1938) and gradually switched to making "B" pictures. His best known role was in Some Like It Hot (1959), the comedy directed by Billy Wilder in which he played the aging millionaire, Osgood Fielding III. Another of his notable roles was that of "Cap'n Andy Hawkes" in MGM's 1951 remake of Show Boat, a role that he reprised onstage in the 1961 New York City Center revival of the musical, and on tour.

Brown was a sports enthusiast, both in film and personally. He was a television and radio broadcaster for the New York Yankees in 1953. Brown's sports enthusiasm also led to him becoming the first president of PONY Baseball and Softball (at the time named Pony League) when the organization was incorporated in 1953. He died at his home in Brentwood on July 6, 1973 from a stroke. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

Who died on this date: 

On July 28, 1934, actress Marie Dressler died. She was born Leila Marie Koerber on November 9, 1868 in Canada. She was one of the top box office draws of the early 1930’s. Her self-styled image as the frumpy, matronly, ugly duckling in many of her films allowed her to soar to the heights of stardom that would culminate with an Academy Award for best actress in 1931. Dressler began her career in film in 1914 in a Mack Sennett comedy entitled, Tillie’s Punctured Romance. Appearing with her in this film were two yet unknown actors, Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand, who would go on to fame of their own.

By 1918, Dressler’s career in film was drastically in decline. Hollywood has few roles for an aging actress and by the end of the 1920’s, she was near poverty and practically homeless. Miraculously, an angel appeared to rescue her career; Irving Thalberg at MGM saw potential and set out to make her a star. She appeared in twenty-nine films from 1914 to 1933, major film credits include; Anna Christie (1930), Emma (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), and Tugboat Annie (1933). Dressler won the 1931 Academy Award for the her portrayal of Min Divot in Min and Bill. She was nominated the following year for a second best acting award for Emma (1932) but lost to Helen Hayes. It was the homely Marie Dressler, who won the coveted exhibitor’s poll as the most popular actress three years in a row (1931-1933), beating out beauties such as Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford.

In the midst of her fame Dressler, was quoted as saying, “middle age is the best part of life, you don’t really begin to live or to appreciate life until after you’re 50.”  As she was just reaching the zenith of her success in film and after signing a long term contract with MGM, doctors informed her that she had an advanced case of stomach cancer. The prognosis was not good and she quickly faded away. After slipping into a coma, the actress died on July 28, 1934 at her Montecito, California, estate, surrounded by family and friends. The immediate cause of death was uremia (failure of the kidneys), complicated by congestive heart failure and cancer. Dressler’s funeral was held on July 31, 1934 in the Wee Kirk O’ the Heather Chapel at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale. In attendance were 150 family, friends and Hollywood notables that included Lionel Barrymore. Close friend and fellow actress Jeanette MacDonald sang during the service. Dressler is interred within the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale in the Sanctuary of Benediction., author of "Fade to Black: Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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