Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Joe E. Brown
1891 - 1973

Forest Lawn Glendale

Wide-mouthed comedian Joe E. Brown is buried in a large memorial featuring a classical statue of a father and mother and their three young children, with the youngest child perched happily on the father's shoulder.

In 1902, the 10-year-old Brown left home - with the blessing of his parents - and joined the circus. Brown became part of a tumbling act called "The Five Marvelous Ashtons," touring the country and performing with circuses and in vaudeville theaters. Brown added comedy to the act, and he became a popular burlesque and Broadway performer in the early 1920s. Despite his talent as a comedian, Brown's film debut in "The Circus Kid" (1928) featured him in a serious role as a lion tamer. Brown had more success in his early comedies and musicals, including "Sally" (1929), "Hold Everything" (1930), "Maybe It's Love" (1930), "Top Speed" (1930), "The Tenderfoot" (1932) and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1935).

A former semi-professional baseball player, Brown was able to show off his athletic talents in "Fireman, Save My Child" (1932), "Elmer the Great" (1933) and "Alibi Ike" (1935). In his contract with Warner Bros. studios, Brown insisted on a clause that would allow him to organize a baseball team at the studio, and he would play whenever he had the chance.

Brown was known for his rubbery face, large mouth and ear-splitting yell. After Brown left Warner Bros. in 1937, he appeared in a long string of low-budget, relatively unsuccessful comedies. Following the death of his son in the crash of a military training plane near Palm Springs, CA, Brown announced his retirement from films in 1943, and focused his energy on entertaining U.S. troops around the world. Inspired by the response he received, Brown returned to films with a serious role as a small-town minister in "The Tender Years" (1947). His next film role was as Cap'n Andy Hawks in "Show Boat" (1951). Brown appeared often on radio and television throughout the 1950s, 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).

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, CA.

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.

Brown was born Joseph Evan Brown on July 28, 1891 (some sources say 1892), in Holgate, OH. He died on July 6, 1973, in Los Angeles, CA.

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