Jack Oakie

Active - 1928 - 1961  |   Born - Nov 12, 1903   |   Died - Jan 23, 1978   |   Genres - Musical, Comedy, Drama

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Biography by AllMovie

The parents of American actor Jack Oakie had hopes that their son would enter the business world, but a spell as telephone clerk in a brokerage house convinced Oakie to look elsewhere for a career. After appearing at an amateur show staged by Wall Street executives for the Cardiac Society, Oakie was encouraged by the show's director to give acting his full attention. Oakie's professional debut was in the chorus of the 1922 George M. Cohan musical Little Nellie Kelly. Several Broadway productions later, Oakie travelled westward to try his luck in films, the first of which was Finders Keepers. Transferring without a hitch to talkies, Oakie found himself much in demand, usually playing a dimwitted braggart (with one of the best "double takes" in the business) who somehow made good and got the girl before fadeout time. By the late 1930s Oakie's career had gone into decline. The experience humbled the bombastic comedian and convinced him take a new approach to his career. After his unforgettable Mussolini take-off in Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), Oakie entered a new movie phase as second lead and character actor, which sustained him through many a musical comedy of the 1940s. And when called upon to do so, he could still carry a picture with finesse, as witness the 1945 fantasy That's the Spirit. Stage and TV work took up much of his time in the 1950s and 1960s, with occasional choice character parts in such films as The Rat Race (1960) and Lover Come Back (1962). Unpredictable in his likes and dislikes, Oakie was the sort of fellow who brusquely shooed away autograph seekers, but who also visited ailing comedian Stan Laurel, a man Oakie barely knew, to brighten up Stan's hospital stay at a time when some of Laurel's "close" pals didn't want to show up. Just before his death, Jack Oakie committed his memories to a sometimes fanciful but always entertaining biography, Jack Oakie's Double Takes, which was published posthumously by Jack's widow, actress Victoria Horne.

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