Jack Oakie


Jack Oakie

Infobox actor
name = Jack Oakie
bgcolour = silver


imagesize = 180px
caption = Jack Oakie, as Benzino Napaloni
in the 1940 film "The Great Dictator".
birthname = Lewis Delaney Offield
birthdate = 12 November 1903
birthplace = Sedalia, Missouri, U.S.
deathdate = Death date and age|1978|1|23|1903|11|12
deathplace = Los Angeles, California, U.S.
othername =
yearsactive = 1923-1971
spouse = Victoria Horne (1950 - 1978)
Venita Varden (1936 - 1945)
notable role = Benzino Napaloni in "The Great Dictator" (1940)

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 [ [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0642988/bio Jack Oakie biography] at the Internet Movie Database website. Accessed 16 June 2007.] as saying of his studio career: cquote|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." [ [http://www.oscars.org/foundation/lectures/oakie.html "The Jack Oakie Lecture on Comedy in Film"] at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website. Accessed 16 June 2007.]

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. [Kevin Roderick, " [http://www.americassuburb.com/oakie_estate_to_be_developed_1.php Oakie estate to be developed] ", blog article dated 13 January 2007, 7:55pm. Accessed 16 June 2007. (The URL for the LA Daily News [http://www.dailynews.com/search/ci_4975464 article] by Dennis McCarthy is dead, as at 16 June 2007).]

Filmography

Bibliography

* "Autobiography published posthumously by Oakie's widow on 1 January 1980. 240 pages."
* "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

*imdb name | id=0642988 | name=Jack Oakie
* [http://www.oscars.org/foundation/lectures/oakie.html Jack Oakie Lecture on Comedy in Film] (official website)
* [http://www.classicimages.com/1997/february/jackoakie.html Biography of Jack Oakie]
* [http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=53725&mod=bio NY Times Biography of Jack Oakie]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=773 Jack Oakie's Gravesite]
* [http://www.americassuburb.com/oakieestate.jpgOverhead shot of Jack Oakie's estate] (circa 2006-07, prior to redevelopment)
* [http://film.virtual-history.com/person.php?personid=1173 Photographs of Jack Oakie]


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