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Jack Oakie

Jack Oakie (November 12, 1903 – January 23, 1978) was an American actor, starring mostly in films, but also working on stage, radio, and television.

Early life

Oakie was born as Lewis Delaney Offield in Sedalia, Missouri. However, he grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, which is how he obtained his "Oakie" nickname. His adopted first name, Jack, was the name of the first character he played on stage.

Early career

Oakie worked as a runner on Wall Street, New York, and narrowly escaped being killed in the Wall Street bombing of 16 September 1920. While in New York, he also started appearing in amateur theatre as a mimic and a comedian, finally making his professional debut on Broadway in 1923 as a chorus boy in a production of "Little Nelly Kelly" by George M. Cohan.

Oakie worked in various musicals and comedies on Broadway from 1923 to 1927, when he moved to Hollywood to work in movies at the end of the silent film era. Oakie appeared in five silent films during 1927 and 1928. As the age of the "talkies" began, he signed with Paramount Pictures, making his first talking film, The Dummy, in 1929.

Film career

When his contract with Paramount ended in 1934, Oakie decided to freelance. He was remarkably successful, appearing in 87 films, most made in the 1930s and 1940s. In the film Too Much Harmony (1933), the part of Oakie's on-screen mother was played by his real mother Mary Evelyn Offield. During the 1930s he was known as "The World's Oldest Freshman", as a result of appearing in numerous films with a collegiate theme. He was also known for refusing to wear screen make-up of any kind, and the frequent use of double-take in his comedy. Oakie was quoted as saying of his studio career:
The pictures I made were called the bread and butter pictures of the studio. They cost nothing and made millions, and supported the prestige productions that cost millions and made nothing.

Not being limited by a film studio contract, Oakie branched into radio and had his own radio show between 1936 and 1938.

Oakie is probably most notable for his portrayal of Benzino Napaloni, the boisterous dictator of Bacteria, in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), for which he received an Oscar nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Award. This role was a broad parody of the fascist dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini.

Marriages and television work

Oakie was married twice. His first marriage to Venita Varden in 1936 ended in divorce in 1945. (She died in 1948 in the crash of United Airlines Flight 624 at Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania). In 1950, he married a second time to actress Victoria Horne, with whom he lived until his passing in 1978.

Late in his career he appeared in various episodes of a number of television shows, including The Real McCoys (1957), Daniel Boone (1966), and Bonanza (1966).

Jack Oakie died on 23rd January 1978 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 74 from an aortic aneurysm. His remains were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale (top of the hill, Whispering Pines section), in Los Angeles County.

Memorials

In 1981, the "Jack Oakie Lecture on Comedy in Film" was established as an annual event of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At the inaugural presentation, Oakie was described as "a master of comic timing and a beloved figure in the industry.

A small display celebrating the comedy and fame of Jack Oakie is on display at Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard, and his hand and footprints may be found at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Estate to be redeveloped

Oakie made his home in Northridge in the San Fernando Valley, in 1940-41, buying the 11 acre estate of actress Barbara Stanwyck at 18650 Devonshire Street (just west of Reseda Boulevard). Here he planted a citrus orchard and bred Afghan Hounds, at one time having up to 100 dogs on the property. After his death, his wife Victoria remained in the home until her passing. She left the property to the University of Southern California (USC). A January 2007 article in the Los Angeles Daily News reported that Oakie's estate, one of the last remnants of the large Northridge estates famed for thoroughbred breeding, had been sold by to a developer and for subdivision into 29 homes. The article mentioned that Oakie's house, originally commissioned by Barbara Stanwyck and designed by Paul Williams, will remain, possibly as a community centre.

Filmography

Year Film Role
1961 Lover Come Back J. Paxton Miller
1960 The Rat Race Mac, Owner of Macs Bar
1959 The Wonderful Country Travis Hyte
1956 Around the World in Eighty Days Captain of the Henrietta
1951 Tomahawk (UK title: Battle of Powder River) Sol Beckworth
1950 Last of the Buccaneers Sgt. Dominick
1949 Thieves' Highway Slob
1948 When My Baby Smiles at Me Bozo
1948 Northwest Stampede Mike Kirby (Clem)
1946 She Wrote the Book Jerry Marlowe
1945 On Stage Everybody Michael Sullivan
1945 That's the Spirit Steve "Slim" Gogarty
1944 Bowery to Broadway Michael O'Rourke
1944 The Merry Monahans Pete Monahan
1944 Sweet and Low-Down Popsy
1944 It Happened Tomorrow Uncle Oscar Smith aka Gigolini
1943 Wintertime Skip Hutton
1943 Hello Frisco, Hello Dan Daley
1943 Something to Shout About Larry Martin
1942 Iceland (UK title: Katina) Slip Riggs
1942 Song of the Islands Rusty Smith
1941 Rise and Shine Boley Bolenciecwcz (pronounced Bolenkowitz)
1941 Navy Blues Cake O'Hara
1941 The Great American Broadcast Chuck Hadley
1940 Little Men Willie the Fox
1940 Tin Pan Alley Harry Calhoun
1940 The Great Dictator Benzino Napaloni
1940 Young People Joe Ballantine
1938 Thanks for Everything Brady
1938 Annabel Takes a Tour
(aka Annabel Takes a Trip Takes a Trip)
Lanny Morgan
1938 The Affairs of Annabel Lanny Morgan
1938 Radio City Revels Harry Miller
1937 Hitting a New High Corny Davis
1937 Fight for Your Lady Ham Hamilton
1937 The Toast of New York Luke
1937 Super-Sleuth Willard "Bill" Martin
1937 Champagne Waltz Happy Gallagher
1936 That Girl from Paris Whammo Lonsdale
1936 The Texas Rangers Wahoo Jones
1936 Florida Special Bangs Carter
1936 Colleen Joe Cork
1936 Collegiate (UK title: Charm School) Jerry Craig
1935 King of Burlesque Spud Miller
1935 The Big Broadcast of 1936 Spud Miller
1935 The Call of the Wild Shorty Hoolihan
1934 College Rhythm Francis J. Finnegan
1934 Shoot the Works (UK title: Thank Your Stars) Nicky Nelson
1934 Murder at the Vanities Jack Ellery
1934 Looking for Trouble Casey
1933 Alice in Wonderland Tweedledum
1933 Sitting Pretty Chick Parker
1933 Too Much Harmony Benny Day
1933 College Humor Barney Shirrel
1933 The Eagle and the Hawk Mike Richards
1933 Sailor Be Good Kelsey Jones
1933 From Hell to Heaven Charlie Bayne
1932 If I Had a Million Pvt. Mulligan
1932 Uptown New York Eddie Doyle
1932 Madison Sq. Garden Eddie Burke
1932 Once in a Lifetime George Lewis
1932 Million Dollar Legs Migg Tweeny
1932 Sky Bride Alec Dugan
1932 Dancers in the Dark Duke Taylor
1931 Touchdown (UK title: Playing the Game) Babe Barton
1931 Dude Ranch Jennifer
1931 June Moon Frederick Martin Stevens
1931 The Gang Buster "Cyclone" Case
1930 Sea Legs Searchlight Doyle
1930 Let's Go Native Voltaire McGinnis
1930 The Sap From Syracuse
(aka The Sap from Abroad from Abroad)
Littleton Looney
1930 The Social Lion Marco Perkins
1930 Hit the Deck Bilge
1929 Sweetie Tap-Tap Thoompson
1929 Fast Company Elmer Kane
1929 Hard to Get Marty Martin
1929 Street Girl (USA title: Barber John's Boy) Joe Spring
1929 The Man I Love Lew Layton
1929 Close Harmony Ben Barney
1929 The Wild Party Al
1929 The Dummy Dopey Hart
1929 Sin Town "Chicken" O'Toole
1928 Someone to Love Michael Casey
1928 The Fleet's In Searchlight Doyle
1928 Road House Sam
1923 His Children's Children ?

Bibliography

  • Jack Oakie (1980). Jack Oakie's Double Takes. Strawberry Hill Press. ISBN 0-89407-019-3. Autobiography published posthumously by Oakie's widow on 1 January 1980. 240 pages.
  • Victoria Horne Oakie (1994). "Dear Jack": Hollywood birthday reminiscences to Jack Oakie. Strawberry Hill Press. ISBN 0-89407-113-0, ISBN 978-0894071133. Letters of congratulation and reminiscence sent from almost 150 celebrities to Jack Oakie in celebration of his 70th birthday. Compiled & edited by Mrs Oakie to commemorate his 90th birthday. 140 pages.

References

External links

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