Joe E. Brown (1892 - 1973)

A photo of Joe E. Brown
Joe E. Brown
1892 - 1973
updated March 05, 2020
Joe E. Brown was born on July 28, 1892 in Holgate, Ohio. He died on July 6, 1973 in Brentwood, California at age 80.

Joe E. Brown.

Joe E. Brown Biography

With today's technology we are able to write and share our own history which lasts forever online. Our ancestors never had a chance to document their lives. This biography is dedicated to memorialize the life of Joe Brown, honor his ancestry & genealogy, and his immediate Brown family.

Most Commonly Known Name

Joe E. Brown

First name


Middle name


Last Name(s)

Nickname(s) or aliases

Joseph Evans Brown




Joe Brown was born on in Holgate, Henry County, Ohio United States 43527


Joe Brown died on in Brentwood, Contra Costa County, California United States 94513

Cause of death

There is no cause of death listed for Joe.

Burial / Funeral

Do you know the final resting place - gravesite in a cemetery or location of cremation - of Joe E. Brown ?


Ethnicity & Lineage

As American as apple pie.

Nationality & Locations Lived



Unknown. Was Joe a religious man?

Last Known Residence

Unknown. Did Joe move a lot? Where was his last known location?


He ran away from home at age nine to join a circus.


Joe E. Brown - American actor.
Description Born as Joseph Evans Brown was an American actor and comedian, remembered for his amiable screen persona, JOE E. BROWN for his comic timing, and enormous elastic-mouth smile. He was one of the most popular American comedians in the 1930s and 1940s, with films like A Midsummer Night's Dream, Earthworm Tractors, and Alibi Ike.
Born: July 28, 1892, Holgate, OH (Actual Date of Birth but recorded wrong.)
Died: July 6, 1973, Brentwood, CA
Height: 5′ 7″
Buried: Forest Lawn, CA
Children: Joe L. Brown, M. J. Frankovich, Kathryn Francis Brown, Mary Katherine Ann Brown, Don Evan Brown and capped his career with one of his most memorable and popular roles as Osgood Fielding III, the millionaire who pursues Jack Lemmon in “Some Like It Hot” (1959).

In the final scene of the film, Brown and Lemmon -- dressed as “Daphne” -- take off in Brown’s speedboat, with plans to get married. Lemmon tries to explain to Brown why he wouldn’t make a good wife, but Brown won’t be deterred.

Finally, Lemmon pulls off his wig and announces, “I’m a man!”

“Well,” replies the nonplussed Brown, “nobody’s perfect.”

Brown also made a brief appearance in "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963), and as the cemetery keeper in "The Comedy of Terrors" (1963), which featured horror film legends Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

The memorial where Brown is buried was originally built for Brown’s son, Army Capt. Don Evan Brown (1916-1942), a U.S. Army Air Force squadron commander who was killed on Oct. 8, 1942, when his military plane crashed while on a training flight about 10 miles north of Palm Springs, Calif.

Brown is buried with his wife, Kathryn M. Brown (1892-1977), whom he married in 1915. Also buried in the memorial are the Browns’ adopted son, producer and studio executive Mitchell J. “Mike” Frankovich (1909-1992), and his wife, actress Binnie Barnes Frankovich (1903-1998). In the center of the memorial, just below the statue, is a small plaque that appears to be a family crest. In the center of the plaque is the mask of a clown, with “The Joe E. Browns” written across the top, and “We Laugh to Win” written across the bottom.

In his biography, “Laughter is a Wonderful Thing,” Brown wrote that he was born in 1892, and most biographical references for him cite that as his birth date. On the memorial, however, his birth date is listed as 1891.

On his memorial, Brown is remembered as "beloved husband, understanding father and cherished friend. His courage in the face of trouble, his modesty in the rewards of triumph won the love and esteem of people all over the world. His personal integrity and devotion to all people, reflected the love of the savior into whose hands his life is given."

Personal Life & Organizations

Famous movie comedian, actor.
He was born in Holgate, Ohio, July 28, 1892, and attended grammar school in Toledo, but ran away when he was 9 to join a circus. After much drudgery he became the junior member of the Five Marvelous Ashtons, a troupe of aerial acrobats that was one of the main attractions of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
In 1906, he formed the acrobatic team of Bell and Brown with Tommy Bell, a star acrobat, but a perfectionist. Mr. Bell frequently expressed anger when his partner turned a fraction of an inch too much, though audiences could not tell.
On one occasion, Mr. Bell tossed his partner high into the air, then uttered a low groan at Mr. Brown's imperfect movements and started walking off the stage. He was supposed to catch Mr. Brown, but didn't Mr. Brown hit the stage and broke a leg.
“I warned you,” Mr. Bell said.
Mr. Brown married Kathryn McGraw in 1915. He went into burlesque in 1918. Before long, he appeared on Broadway in the hit “Listen Lester,” and was soon an established star.
He appeared in “Jim Jam Jems,” “Greenwich Village Follies,” “Betty Lee,” “Captain Jinks,” and “Twinkle, Twinkle,” and in the road company of “Elmer the Great.” In 1928 he started his movie career in melodrama, “Crooks Can't Win.”

In the next two decades, he appeared in about 50 films. They included: “The Gladiator,” “Wide Open Faces,” “Riding on Air,” “Sons o’ Guns,” “Earthworm Tractors,” “Six Day Bike Rider,” “Going Wild,” “Sit Tight,” “Alibi Ike,” “The Circus Clown,” “You said a Mouthful,” “Chatterbox,” “Pin Up Girl,” and “Hollywood Canteen.”

In 1959 he appeared as a millionaire in “Some Like It Hot,” with Marilyn Monroe. Mr. Brown considered his most successful movies to be “Elmer the Great” and “Hold Everything.” They involved roles in which his intimate knowledge of the circus, stage and sports aided him greatly.

He also appeared as Flute in “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” He contended later that he had never heard of Shakespeare. Hollywood laugh clockers reported that the best audience reaction followed his line, “I won't play any more.” This was not written by Shakespeare, but was adlibbed by Mr. Brown after he was thrown into a lake.

The degree followed Mr. Brown's appearance in “Harvey” as the inebriate Elwood P. Dowd. He opened the road tour of the show in Chicago and then went to the West Coast. He performed in the role more than 1,000 times.

Military Service

Did Joe serve in the military or did a war or conflict interfere with his life?

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Looking for a different Joe Brown?
View other bios of people named Joe Browns
Back to Top

Joe E. Brown Family Tree

Joe's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Brown family tree.

Joe's Family

Add a parent
Add a parent
Joe E. Brown
Add a partner
Add a child
Add a partner
Add a child
Add a sibling


Click to add friends & family.

Share Memories about Joe

What do you remember about Joe E. Brown ? Share your memories of special moments and stories you have heard about him. Or just leave a comment to show the world that Joe is remembered.

Joe Brown Obituary

This obit of Joe E. Brown is maintained by Joe's followers. Contribute to her obituary and include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

BRENTWOOD, Calif., July —Joe E. Brown, the beloved elastic‐mouth comedian, died at his home here today. He was 80 years old. Mr. Brown was incapacitated by a stroke several years ago, and he had also suffered from severe arthritis.
The funeral service and burial will be Monday at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
He leaves his wife, Kathryn; a son, Joe L.; 2 daughters, Mrs. Kathryn Lyle and Mrs. Mary Fair; 11 grandchildren and six great‐grandchildren.
They referred to his mouth as the. Great Open Space, the Grand Canyon and the Mammoth Cave, and they said that he was the only man who could not cover his mouth when he yawned. Joe E. Brown just shrugged off the endless descriptions of his mouth and commented: “I'll open my mouth until my stomach shows if people think it's ftinny.”
And the people thought it was funny. Almost from the start of his movie career, in 1928, ‘until the nineteen‐forties, his pictures were among the 10 biggest box‐office attractions.
His mouth, from which often emerged a sirenlike howl, and his comic talentS made Mr. Brown a particular favorite of the younger generation, although he never achieved the fame of Eddie Cantor with his ogling eyes or Jimmy Durante with his large nose.
Joseph Evan Brown was a stanch member of the slapstick school of humor. His early career as an acrobat in circuses.tauight him to fall safely. It was not unusual for him to be wearing ‘a white suit in one of his films and to fall face down in a mud puddle.
He was forever the hapless soul—whether a soda jerk, a football player being thrown over the goal line for a last minute touchdown, a bungling reporter, a country yokel making lemonade in a finger bowl or a rookie baseball player baffling the manager.
Mr. Brown loved baseball and developed several routines, including one of a young pitcher harried by batters, umpires and base runners. He used it on the stage, in the movies and on television. When Mr. Brown, signed long‐term contract With Warner Brothers ‘he insisted on an unusual clause that required the, company to maintain a complete baseball team for him among the employees of the studio. For a while he played with the St. Paul team. He was part owner of the Kansas City Blues from 1932 to 1935, and in 19, 53 he was a pregame and post-game announcer for the Yankees.
“I once had a major league job,” Mr. Brown often said. “The manager wanted me to play third base. He said that if I couldn't reach the ball with my hands, I could open my mouth and catch it between my teeth. I tried it once and darn near swallowed the ball.”
Despite the popular impression, Mr. Brown's mouth was not of extraordinary size. He had a rubbery ‘face and the apparent magnitude of his mouth was achieved by throwing back his head so that his wide‐open mouth occupied the foreground of the audience's field of vision. The movie and television cameras took full advantage of this maneuver.
Mr. Brown learned the humorous possibilities of his mouth by chance. He was in a play in which he had only a few words to speak—and they were not funny. He decided he would attract attention by opening his mouth as wide as possible and holding it that way until the audience was staring at it with rapt attention, believing that he had forgotten his lines and was frozen with fear.
When he had the audience's perfect attention, he whispered his line and the audience howled. There was rarely an occasion after that that he did not seek a laugh by calling attention to the size of his mouth. His antics sometimes wore thin on adults. One critic wrote in 1938:
“Pitcher‐mouthed Joe E. Brown has gone to the well once too often.”
But Mr. Brown's gift for pantomime, his Cheshire Cat grin and his interminable yawns endeared him to thousands of servicemen overseas during World War IL He estimated that he had traveled more than 200,000 air miles visiting battle theaters. That figure did not include the number of jeep miles, ‘he explained, because a jeep mile was equivalent to 15 ground miles, because of the up‐and‐down movement of the vehicle.
His antics for the men in uniform were, in part, a work born of grief. In October, 1942, his elder son, Capt. Don Evan Brown, was killed in a crash near Palm Springs, Calif,, while ferrying an Army bomber.
On Luzon, in an American advance on the town of Bambang, Mr. Brown was permitted by the commanding officer, Mal. Gen. Robert S. Beighter. to carry a carbine and to ride in the lead tank. The officer later said that the comedian had shot two of the enemy.
This made for headlines back home, but was also sharply criticized by those who pointed out that Mr. Brown was in the uniform of a noncombatant. International law forbade him to engage in any hostile action.
Mr. Brown was a big hit on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles, when his sons, Don and Joe L. were there. The senior Brown joined a fraternity, although he was nearly 50 years old. He was a spark plug of campus activities, including pep rallies and football games.
Joe L., became general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955, which gave his father another opportunity to deal personally with the game he loved.
In 1949, Mr. Brown received an honorary degree from Bowling Green State University for his “philosophy of life epitomized in love, learn and laugh.”
“I'm not the comedian I once was,” Mr. Brown said in 1952. “A comedian has to be slightly insulting, comedy has to be 70 per cent insults, and I'm always afraid today when I say something funny it may hurt someone. If another comic makes a crack about my mouth, I just can't insult him back.”

Other Records of Joe E. Brown

1892 - 1973 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Joe's lifetime

In 1892, in the year that Joe E. Brown was born, on October 12th, the "Pledge of Allegiance" was first recited in unison by students in U.S. public schools. Composed the previous August by Francis Bellamy, it was to be recited in 15 seconds and originally read: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." "Under God" was added in the 1950's.

In 1914, he was 22 years old when in only his second big-screen appearance, Charlie Chaplin played the Little Tramp, his most famous character. The silent film was made in January and released the following year. Of the character, Chaplin said: "On the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large." The moustache was added to age his 24-year-old face without masking his expressions.

In 1930, Joe was 38 years old when as head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, William Hays established a code of decency that outlined what was acceptable in films. The public - and government - had felt that films in the '20's had become increasingly risque and that the behavior of its stars was becoming scandalous. Laws were being passed. In response, the heads of the movie studios adopted a voluntary "code", hoping to head off legislation. The first part of the code prohibited "lowering the moral standards of those who see it", called for depictions of the "correct standards of life", and forbade a picture from showing any sort of ridicule towards a law or "creating sympathy for its violation". The second part dealt with particular behavior in film such as homosexuality, the use of specific curse words, and miscegenation.

In 1948, at the age of 56 years old, Joe was alive when on May 14th, the State of Israel was proclaimed by David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel's first Premier, and the U.S. officially recognized Israel. That evening, Egypt launched an air assault on Israel.

In 1973, in the year of Joe E. Brown 's passing, on August 15th, amidst rising calls for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, Congress imposed an end to the bombing of Cambodia.

Other Biographies

Other Joe Browns

Joe Brown
around 1895 - Nov 27, 1917
Joe Brown
around 1899 - Apr 22, 1941
Joe Brown
around 1887 - Jan 22, 1943
Joe N Brown
Born: around 1913
New York, United States
Joe T Brown
Born: around 1927
Ohio, United States
Joe S Brown
Born: around 1928
Kentucky, United States
Joe Dallas Brown
Born: around 1927
Georgia, United States
Joe F Brown
Born: around 1927
Idaho, Limited Service Or Hawaiian Islands, United States
Joe M Brown
Born: around 1927
North Carolina, United States
Joe B Sr Brown
Born: around 1921
North Carolina, United States
Joe Brown
Born: around 1927
Alabama, United States
Joe C Brown
Born: around 1927
Georgia, United States
Joe L Brown
Born: around 1926
Mississippi, United States
Joe S Brown
Born: around 1917
Alabama, United States
Joe W Brown
Born: around 1915
South Carolina, United States
Joe Jr Brown
Born: around 1926
North Carolina, United States
Joe F Brown
Born: around 1908
Alabama, United States
Joe v Brown
Born: around 1926
Tennessee, United States
Joe O Brown
Born: around 1923
Georgia, United States

Other Browns

Sheppard Brown
Aug 29, 1919 - July 1983
Washington, North Carolina
James E Brown
Aug 16, 1907 - Jul 19, 2001
Pinehurst, NC
John Brown
Jan 18, 1888 - October 1969
Laurinburg, North Carolina
William H Brown
Mar 11, 1916 - Apr 7, 1996
Kannapolis, NC
Monroe Brown
Sep 15, 1913 - July 1981
High Point, North Carolina
Mabel Brown
Sep 11, 1913 - June 1986
Baltimore, Maryland
Hazel H Brown
Jun 5, 1917 - Oct 27, 2001
Landis, NC
Esther L Brown
Apr 1, 1913 - Aug 1, 2007
Mayodan, NC
Marvin Brown
Jan 21, 1902 - December 1971
Middle River, Maryland
Mabel B Brown
Nov 30, 1908 - Jun 30, 1997
West Jefferson, NC
Junious Brown
Jun 13, 1915 - December 1984
Staley, North Carolina
Bertram Brown
Aug 8, 1919 - November 1983
Chicago, Illinois
Howard A Brown
May 22, 1911 - Aug 29, 1989
Great Falls, VA
Samuel Brown
Mar 10, 1912 - March 1980
Southern Pines, North Carolina
Leonard Brown
Jul 3, 1891 - July 1972
Wilmington, Delaware
Julia Brown
Dec 25, 1915 - September 1987
Charlotte, North Carolina
Daniel E Brown
Jan 8, 1958 - Oct 9, 2008
Asheville, NC
David Ellis Brown
Jun 30, 1957 - Jun 7, 2011
Charlie Brown
Sep 7, 1921 - January 1985
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Success Stories from Biographies like Joe E. Brown
I have to tell you a VERY special story about how AncientFaces helped to reunite our family. For 13 years, I have been searching for my grandmother's missing sister. She just disappeared from the family in the 1930s without a trace. No one ever knew where or when she died or where she was buried. My years of searching have just run into dead ends, so I had given up. Today, out-of-the-blue, a young lady called me and said that she had seen a photograph on AncientFaces and one of the women in the photo was her grandmother! Little did I know that she had left a small child behind when she died so young of TB. You can imagine our shock and excitement at finding each other and a whole new family that we never knew existed. We only live one state away from each other and very soon plan to have all family members meet to share our sides of "the story" and of course, many, many more picturesl AncientFaces...... without you, this family may never have been complete and Aunt Grace would have been lost to us forever. I hope you realize what a valuable service you provide and how grateful we are to have found you. Thank you!!!! -Lynda B.
I never knew my biological family. My family is my mother and father who raised me. But, as I got older I got curious about my heritage. It took me years of investigation to finally discover my parents’ names. Well, I get goosebumps just writing this, I have found my biological family because of AncientFaces. Yes!! I did a search for my [parents' names] and was shocked to find a photo of them on AncientFaces! I cannot tell you the feeling that came over me when I saw this photo - to see the faces of my biological parents…JUST LIKE THAT. I left a comment on the photo and you won’t believe this - the owner of the photo is MY SISTER!!! Yes, I have a LITTLE sister! It turns out my parents were too young when they had me and had to give me up. My little sister knew I existed and wanted to find me but had no way of doing it. Thanks to you I am meeting my little sister for the first time next month. GOD BLESS YOU ANCIENTFACES. -Anonymous
We have found our missing relative entirely thanks to AncientFaces. We have received a much clearer photo of Captain Grant from his Son. The picture we on AncientFaces is an old yellowed newspaper photo. I am attaching the new photo and ask that you take the old one out and put the new clear picture in its place. With our Canadian Remembrance Day here in 2 days - the timing could not be better. Thank You, AncientFaces. My long lost Aunt is now 86 years old and her Son and I are talking by phone and e-mails. Captain Grant was his Father and died in France in 1944 and is buried there. By posting pictures of the visit to his gravesite - we connected through one of his brothers. Amazing that our prayers have been answered. Thank you -Beth B.
I came home for lunch yesterday and decided to look at my email before going back to work. The weekly newsletter that I subscribe to from the Logan Family History Center had this message in it about AncientFaces. I clicked on the link and the first search I did was for Woodruff, and Mamie was the first picture that came up. I could hardly stand it. I was late getting back to work. I had to add comments and write to you. Thank you for noticing her in the store and for the website. I can't help but wonder how many other family pictures may have ended up in that store and why. I also can't help but feel that it was meant to be and that there is a purpose that this picture is coming home as you say. What are the chances of this all just happening? It's amazing that you even picked it up at the store and then went to all the extra effort to post it. It makes me feel as though you have been my friend forever. It certainly has given me a connection to you, and I have a love for what you do. I just can't tell you how excited I am. I can't even hold it in. -Cathy K., Utah
I have previously submitted several pictures of my grandfather August Zemidat. I have tried for many years to find anyone with that name, and I have searched many genealogy web sites to no avail. Recently I was contacted by someone who saw my pictures on AncientFaces who may well be a cousin. She also provided me with information that seems to indicate her grandparents were my grandfather’s siblings. Considering the many years I have been searching for the name Zemidat, I find this is absolutely amazing that I have finally found a family member. Thank you AncientFaces -Ron D.
I love AncientFaces, a while back I saw that you had labeled Garcia surname pictures. At the time I didn’t have all my family facts for my research. Anyway, I wandered into your site just to check it out AND NOW 1 YEAR LATER I received a picture from an 87 year old aunt and guess what you had this very same picture on your site!! (They were my great aunts and my great-grandmother!). Thank you… -Angela M.
I have loved AncientFaces since I first found it, it's the first thing I check when I turn on the computer. There was a time when even in the most modest households there were three cherished possessions, a family Bible. a family album and a fancy lamp. It was usual for the family to gather in the parlour, generally on Sunday and talk, tell stories of family and friends with the photos in the albums as illustration. Sadly in our modern electronic age we have fallen away from the oral tradition and interest in history has waned. I was quite shocked on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic to see so many comments from younger people who were surprised to learn that the Titanic wasn't just a movie. This is why AncientFaces is so important, to me it's the electronic age version of the oral tradition on a global scale and the sheer volume of people who follow, comment and contribute seems to prove the point. We are all grateful to you all for providing us with this wonderful site. - Arba M.