Joe E. Brown entered show business at age 10 when he toured circus and vaudeville circuits in a tumbling act. Graduating to comedy, he appeared on Broadway in the 1920s and was a major comedic film star throughout the 1930s, featured in lavish Technicolor musical comedies including Hold Everything
(1930) and Song Of The West
(1930). His long distinguished career includes appearances in Around The World In Eighty Days
and his beloved role as millionaire Osgood Fielding III who falls for Jack Lemmon in drag in Some Like It Hot
Riding On Air (1937, B&W): Small town reporter Elmer Lane wins the enormous sum of $5,000 in the Crunchies essay contest, which draws the intense interest of seasoned flim-flam man Doc Waddington. Posing as a wealthy financier, Doc concocts a phony investment scheme and soon has Elmer's $5,000. Elmer introduces Waddington to the local businessman's association and before long, the townsfolk are lining up to be let in on "the limited, cash-only investment opportunity." With the community's hard- earned investment capital in hand, Doc hastily leaves town and disappears. Beloved girlfriend Betty, disheartened that Elmer has been played for a sucker, jilts him and runs off with rival reporter Harvey. Elmer sets off on a desperate flight to get back the cash and make things right - before the angry townsfolk tear him limb from limb!
When's Your Birthday (1937, B&W): "Your mother's a crab and your father's a goat!" Realizing that "the planets are wrong," astrologer Dustin Willoughby insists on changing his wedding date, causing his furious fiance to break off the engagement and her father to throw him out of the house. Down on his luck, waiting tables in a nightclub, Dustin catches the attention of some high-rolling gamblers with his uncanny ability to use the stars to pick winners at the track. Bankrolled by his new "friends," he rises to prominence as "The Swami," astrologer to the rich and famous. Through a bizarre turn of events, the gangsters force Dustin into the prizefighting ring. But the mobster's blood begins to boil when Dustin refuses to fight "unless the stars are right!
Earthworm Tractors (1936, B&W): Alexander Botts, the newest representative for the Earthworm Tractor Company, has only two problems- his total inexperience with mechanics and his extraordinary incompetence. That won't stop him from winning over his biggest prospect, Sam Johnson. Encouraged by Johnson's beautiful daughter Mabel, Botts will try anything to convince the fiery lumberman that his business needs Earthworm Tractors. Botts tries to prove the machine's strength by crushing cars, climbing mountains and pulling Johnson's house across town, but when the town council holds a tractor competition, Botts finally sees his chance to persuade Johnson and win his daughter's heart. Alexander Botts, "natural born salesman," was created by William Hazlett Upson for the Saturday Evening Post where he starred in an impressive 112 stories. Joe E. Brown brings the hapless yet lovable Alexander Botts to life with charm, whimsy and ridiculousness.
Fit For A King (1937, B&W): Comic whirlwind Joe E. Brown stars as newspaper go-fer Virgil Jones, the favored nephew of the New York Daily Blade's publisher but the bane of editor Mr. Hardwick. Virgil has lofty dreams of becoming a star reporter but spends his day fetching coffee and flirting with the pretty waitress at the local diner. Mr. Hardwick sends Virgil on a fool's errand that inadvertently thrusts him into political intrigue and peril. As Virgil's journalistic prowess grows, he finds himself on the trail of deadly assassins while romancing a princess. 1937's Fit For A King is a prime Joe E. Brown vehicle that features brilliant slapstick, a witty script and the irrepressible charisma of one of cinema's greatest clowns. Joe E. Brown (1892-1973) often remarked that he was one of the few children whose parents encouraged him to run away and join the circus. From the silent era through the 1960s, Brown was featured in such diverse movies as A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Earthworm Tractors (1936), Show Boat (1951), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and The Comedy of Terrors (1964). Off the silver screen, Brown was an avid baseball fan and is best remembered today for uttering "Nobody's perfect!" - the immortal closing line of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959).
Painted Faces (1929, B&W): As the lone dissenting juror in a seemingly open-and-shut murder case, soft-spoken Hermann, a circus clown by trade, is under tremendous pressure from the other jurors to join them in finding the defendant guilty. It's a week until Christmas, and everybody wants to bring the trial to a quick end, but Hermann pleads with them to listen to a story before they decide on the man's fate. He proceeds to weave a dark tale of heartbreak and loss on the circus midway - a tale with a shocking ending that will prove that the man about to be condemned could not have pulled the trigger. Veteran circus and vaudeville performer turned comic actor, Joe E. Brown, sports a thick Dutch accent for this sympathetic portrayal of a laughing clown with a broken heart. Albert S. Rogell directs the film with a naturalistic, overlapping style of dialogue that prefigures later works by Howard Hawks and Robert Altman.