Joe E. Brown (1892 - 1973)

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

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Joe E. Brown
Most commonly known name
First name
Middle name
Last name(s)
Joseph Evans Brown
Nickname(s) or aliases
Unknown. Did Joe move a lot? Where was his last known location?
Last known residence
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
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
There is no cause of death listed for Joe.
Cause of death
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Burial / Funeral

Ethnicity & Lineage

As American as apple pie.

Nationality & Locations Lived



Unknown. Was Joe a religious man?


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

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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.”

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1892 - 1973 World Events

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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 1919, by the time he was 27 years old, in January, Nebraska was the 36th state to ratify the 18th Amendment, making it the law of the land. The 18th Amendment established Prohibition - a law against the production, transport, and sale of alcohol. Private consumption and possession were not prohibited. Several months later, the Volstead Act was passed, creating laws to enforce the Amendment. Bootlegging and bathtub gin followed.

In 1941, Joe was 49 years old when on December 7th, the Japanese attacked the military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise aerial attack damaged 8 U.S. battleships (6 later returned to service), including the USS Arizona, and destroyed 188 aircraft. 2,402 American citizens died and 1,178 wounded were wounded. On December 8th, the U.S. declared war on Japan and on December 11th, Germany and Italy (allies of Japan) declared war on the United States. World War II was in full swing.

In 1961, he was 69 years old when on January 20th, John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States. He had previously been a U.S. Senator and a Congressman, both from the state of Massachusetts, as well as a Naval lieutenant in World War II.

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

Unknown - Unknown
around 1895 - Nov 27, 1917
around 1899 - Apr 22, 1941
around 1887 - Jan 22, 1943
around 1913 - Unknown
around 1927 - Unknown
around 1928 - Unknown
around 1927 - Unknown
around 1927 - Unknown
around 1927 - Unknown
around 1921 - Unknown
around 1927 - Unknown
around 1927 - Unknown
around 1926 - Unknown
around 1917 - Unknown
around 1915 - Unknown
around 1926 - Unknown
around 1908 - Unknown
around 1926 - Unknown
around 1923 - Unknown

Other Browns

Unknown - Unknown
Aug 29, 1919 - July 1983
Aug 16, 1907 - Jul 19, 2001
Jan 18, 1888 - October 1969
Mar 11, 1916 - Apr 7, 1996
Sep 15, 1913 - July 1981
Sep 11, 1913 - June 1986
Jun 5, 1917 - Oct 27, 2001
Apr 1, 1913 - Aug 1, 2007
Jan 21, 1902 - December 1971
Nov 30, 1908 - Jun 30, 1997
Jun 13, 1915 - December 1984
Aug 8, 1919 - November 1983
May 22, 1911 - Aug 29, 1989
Mar 10, 1912 - March 1980
Jul 3, 1891 - July 1972
Dec 25, 1915 - September 1987
Jan 8, 1958 - Oct 9, 2008
Jun 30, 1957 - Jun 7, 2011
Sep 7, 1921 - January 1985

Other Bios

Sep 8, 1837 - Feb 17, 1913
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Jul 25, 1918 - Jul 25, 1993
1845 - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
1855 - Unknown
Aug 14, 1860 - Unknown
1850 - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Feb 22, 1883 - Unknown
1879 - Unknown
Jan 10, 1941 - Unknown
May 25, 1887 - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Sep 20, 1886 - Unknown
Success Stories from Biographies like Joe E. Brown
Created on Jun 04, 2020 by Daniel Pinna
Highlights of just a few of the many successes of sharing family history at AncientFaces. From reuniting lost or 'orphan' antique photos with their families, seeing the faces of your biological family for the first time, to connecting unknown and lost family members together.

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