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Martha Raye

Martha Raye

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Also Known As: The Big Mouth, Margaret Teresa Yvonne Reed, Martha The Mouth Died: October 19, 1994
Born: August 27, 1916 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Butte, Montana, USA Profession: actor, singer, comedian, vaudevillian

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Few entertainers would embrace a nickname like "The Big Mouth," but singer-actress Martha Raye was a very good sport. Of course, what some considered a physical detriment was ultimately a key source of her power as a singer and appeal as a comedienne. She first earned significant attention on Broadway and was soon part of the talent roster at Paramount, where Raye became the go-to girl for loud and obnoxious characters. The majority of her motion picture credits came in rather disposable fare, but there were occasional gems, notably the anarchic comedy classic "Hellzapoppin'" (1941) and Charlie Chaplin's superb dark farce "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947). In later years, Raye worked mostly on the small screen and toplined her own vehicle, "The Martha Raye Show" (NBC, 1954-56). One of her most lasting contributions was as a tireless USO entertainer. Over the course of three wars, Raye travelled extensively and sang for thousands of American soldiers. She also gained a degree of new recognition as the ubiquitous spokeswoman for Polident Denture Cleaner from the 1970s on. Unfortunately, her life out of the spotlight was often troubled and she went through seven marriages and a suicide attempt before enduring...

Few entertainers would embrace a nickname like "The Big Mouth," but singer-actress Martha Raye was a very good sport. Of course, what some considered a physical detriment was ultimately a key source of her power as a singer and appeal as a comedienne. She first earned significant attention on Broadway and was soon part of the talent roster at Paramount, where Raye became the go-to girl for loud and obnoxious characters. The majority of her motion picture credits came in rather disposable fare, but there were occasional gems, notably the anarchic comedy classic "Hellzapoppin'" (1941) and Charlie Chaplin's superb dark farce "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947). In later years, Raye worked mostly on the small screen and toplined her own vehicle, "The Martha Raye Show" (NBC, 1954-56). One of her most lasting contributions was as a tireless USO entertainer. Over the course of three wars, Raye travelled extensively and sang for thousands of American soldiers. She also gained a degree of new recognition as the ubiquitous spokeswoman for Polident Denture Cleaner from the 1970s on. Unfortunately, her life out of the spotlight was often troubled and she went through seven marriages and a suicide attempt before enduring some truly sad final years. Whether belting out a standard like "That Old Black Magic" or doing sketch comedy, Raye was a larger than life personality who loved to perform and that energy and enthusiasm made her a favorite with the public for more than five decades.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Wisecracks (1991) Herself (Archival Footage)
3.
 Concorde--Airport '79, The (1979) Loretta
4.
 The Phynx (1970)
5.
 Pufnstuf (1970) Boss Witch
7.
 Jumbo (1962) Lulu
8.
 Monsieur Verdoux (1947) Annabella Bonheur
9.
 Four Jills in a Jeep (1944) Martha Raye
10.
 Pin Up Girl (1944) Molly McKay
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1916:
Entered parents' vaudeville act at age three
1919:
Toured extensively in vaudeville as Bud and Margie with the Benny Davis Revue, the Ben Blue Company and the Will Morrissey Company
1931:
Worked as band singer and comedienne with Paul Ash's Orchestra at age 15 (date approximate)
:
Joined Boris Morros's Orchestra as a band vocalist with whom she played the Paramount Theatre on Broadway
1934:
Made NY debut at Loew's State Theater
1934:
Made Broadway debut in the revue Lew Brown's "Calling All Stars"
1934:
Made film debut in short subjects
1935:
Appeared on Broadway in "Earl Carroll's Sketch Book"
1935:
Was discovered by Paramount while working as a nightclub singer in Hollywood
1936:
Feature film debut opposite Bing Crosby in "Rhythm on the Range"
:
Toured with the USO during WWII
1947:
Played most acclaimed film role in Charles Chaplin's black comedy, "Monsieur Verdoux"
1948:
Made London debut in variety show at the Palladium
1950:
TV debut in "Anything Goes" on "Musical Comedy Theater
:
Was alternating host on TV series, "All Star Revue"
:
Starred on "The Martha Raye Show"
1967:
Took over the title role of Dolly Gallagher Levi from Ginger Rogers in the long-running Broadway musical, "Hello, Dolly!"
:
Toured annually in Vietnam until the American withdrawal in 1974
:
Played the housekeeper in the NBC TV series, "McMillan", starring Rock Hudson
:
Was featured as Carrie Sharples on CBS sitcom "Alice"
:
Became TV spokeswoman for Polident denture products in the 1980s
:
Began to suffer a series of strokes in the late 1980s
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Professional Children's School: New York , New York -

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Bud Westmore. Makeup artist. Married in 1937; divorced in 1938.
husband:
David Rose. Conductor, composer. Married in 1938; divorced in 1940.
husband:
Neal Lang. Hotelier. Married and divorced in 1941.
husband:
Nick Condos. Dancer. Married on November 11, 1942; divorced on June 17, 1953; died in 1988.
husband:
Ed Begley. Dancer. Married on April 21, 1954; divorced on October 6, 1956; born c. 1924; dancer in the chorus of her TV show; not to be confused with the Oscar-winning character actor.
husband:
Robert O'Shea. Former patrolman, bodyguard, private detective. Married on November 7, 1958; divorced c. 1962; was 28 at time of marriage; O'Shea sued Raye for fraud claiming she had promised him $60,000 to induce him to marry her; marriage was dissolved soon after.
husband:
Mark Steven Harris. Singer, hairdresser, show business promoter. Married on September 25, 1991 in Las Vegas after a three-week courtship, remarried at the Friars Club on December 28, 1991; born c. 1947; took over management of Raye's business affairs after marriage; son of Max Bleefield and Rebecca Glitzer; worked for texile company in NYC; formerly married to Gwenn Susan Husak from 1971 to 1983 with whom he had three daughters.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Peter Reed. Vaudevillian. Irish immigrant song-dance-comedy trouper billed as Reed and Hooper, "The Girl and the Traveler".
mother:
Mabel Hooper. Vaudevillian.
brother:
Bud Reed. Born in 1918.
sister:
Melodye Reed. Born in 1920.
daughter:
Melodye Condos. Musicians' union representative. Born 1945; father Nick Condos; estranged from Raye; in 1991 sued for conservatorship of Raye and for her 25 percent of Raye's income from her Polident commercials (Raye videotaped a will, bequeathing the bulk of her estimated $2.4 million estate to Mark Harris, and leaving $1--as in previous wills--to daughter).
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Take It From Big Mouth: The Life of Martha Raye" University of Kentucky Press

Contributions

danny52 ( 2008-02-07 )

Source: not available

MILESTONE President Bill Clinton awarded Martha Raye the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993, the year before her death.

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