Joe E. Brown: Film Comedian and Baseball Buffoon

McFarland
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As a young boy in the depths of the 1890s depression, Joe E. Brown had a job: making faces at the firemen on passing coal-burning trains so they would throw coal at him. As a child he also worked as a circus acrobat and newsboy. His inventiveness and spunk helped his family get through hard times but also fueled his fascination with entertainment, and he built up a repertoire of rubber-faced expressions and funny antics that would make his stage and screen work memorable. Baseball was a favorite pursuit in his life and thus a recurring theme in his films and skits. In this biography—the first on one of the top film comedians of the 1930s—the reader learns of Joe’s challenging childhood and how it prepared him for later screen roles, and how his love of baseball translated into screen successes. His early career in vaudeville is discussed, his work as a Broadway comedian in the Roaring Twenties, his road to movie stardom, and how he parlayed his love of sports into big hits like 1930’s Elmer the Great. The year 1935 gets its own chapter; its films are considered the pinnacle of Brown’s career, including Alibi Ike, Bright Lights and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The final chapters reveal what happened after he left Warner Bros., including the bittersweet 1940s, when he entertained troops around the globe while mourning a son lost to the war. The book concludes with a comprehensive filmography of his features from 1928 to 1963.
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About the author

Wes D. Gehring is a distinguished professor of film at Ball State University and associate media editor for USA Today magazine, for which he also writes the column “Reel World.” He is the author of 37 film books, including biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise, Red Skelton and Charlie Chaplin.
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Additional Information

Publisher
McFarland
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Published on
Aug 25, 2006
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Pages
228
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ISBN
9780786483518
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / General
Performing Arts / Film / General
Sports & Recreation / Baseball / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The 1930s are routinely considered sound film’s greatest comedy era. Though this golden age encompassed various genres of laughter, clown comedy is the most basic type. This work examines the Depression decade’s most popular type of comedy—the clown, or personality comedian. Focusing upon the Depression era, the study filters its analysis through twelve memorable pictures. Each merits an individual chapter, in which it is critiqued. The films are deemed microcosmic representatives of the comic world and discussed in this context. While some of the comedians in this text have generated a great deal of previous analysis, funnymen like Joe E. Brown and Eddie Cantor are all but forgotten. Nevertheless, they were comedy legends in their time, and their legacy, as showcased in these movies, merits rediscovery by today’s connoisseur of comedy. Even this book’s more familiar figures, such as Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, are often simply relegated to being recognizable pop culture icons whose work has been neglected in recent years. This book attempts to address these oversights and to re-expose the brilliance and ingenuity with which the screen clowns contributed a comic resiliency that was desperately needed during the Depression and can still be greatly appreciated today. The films discussed are City Lights (1931, Chaplin), The Kid From Spain (1932, Cantor), She Done Him Wrong (1933, Mae West), Duck Soup (1933, Marx Brothers), Sons of the Desert (1933, Laurel and Hardy), Judge Priest (1934, Will Rogers), It’s a Gift (1934, W.C. Fields), Alibi Ike (1935, Brown), A Night at the Opera (1935, Marx Brothers), Modern Times (1936, Chaplin), Way Out West (1937, Laurel and Hardy), and The Cat and the Canary (1939, Bob Hope).
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