Americas Joyboy, beefy, plump-faced comedian Jack Oakie, was one of the funniest top and second banana jokesters of stage, radio and especially films Golden Age. He would accomplish so much despite the fact that he was functionally deaf throughout his career and performed primarily with the aid of lip reading or vibrations.
Americas Joyboy, beefy, plump-faced comedian Jack Oakie, was one of the funniest top and second banana jokesters of stage, radio and especially films Golden Age. He would accomplish so much despite the fact that he was functionally deaf throughout his career and performed primarily with the aid of lip reading or vibrations. The stories vary on how he became deaf -- scarlet fever at age 9, a Wall Street building explosion where he worked -- but, whatever the case, it seems a minor miracle that he managed to become a performing success not only for his famous triple take comedy but also for his work in Broadway and Hollywood musicals, which could not have been an easy task! A slapstick inspiration to future comedians like Jackie Gleason, Oakies lightweight foolery and participation in films was pretty much standard cornball with a lot of mugging to boot, but then he surprised audiences by topping it all off in the hands of the legendary Charles Chaplin with a scene-stealing Oscar-nominated support role in a political satire masterpiece. Jack was born Lewis Delaney Offield in Sedalia, Missouri on November 12, 1903, the son of a grain dealer (who died while Jack was quite young) and a teacher of psychology (Mary Evelyn Oakie Offield). His family moved to moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma. He was raised at times with his grandmother in Kansas City, Missouri, and made extra money there as a paperboy for The Kansas City Star. Moving eventually to New York, Jack first worked as a runner for a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and nearly lost his life when a nearby Wall Street building was bombed on September 16, 1920. Interested in comedy and mime by this point, he began building up confidence on the amateur stage and giving himself a new name, Jack Oakie, which was comprised of the first character he ever played on stage and his mothers maiden name. Jack took his first professional curtain call on Broadway in 1923 as a chorus boy in George M. Cohans production of Little Nellie Kelly. From there he found employment in a number of comedies, as well as musicals throughout the mid to late 1920s, including Sharlee (1923), the revues Innocent Eyes (1924) and Artists and Models (1925), and the musical Peggy-Ann in 1926.