Jack Oakie

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Jack Oakie

Oakie and actress Tina Louise in an episode of The New Breed, 1961.
BornLewis Delaney Offield
(1903-11-12)November 12, 1903
Sedalia, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23, 1978(1978-01-23) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1923–1971
Spouse(s)Victoria Horne (1950-1978)
Venita Varden (1936-1945)
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Jack Oakie

Oakie and actress Tina Louise in an episode of The New Breed, 1961.
BornLewis Delaney Offield
(1903-11-12)November 12, 1903
Sedalia, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23, 1978(1978-01-23) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1923–1971
Spouse(s)Victoria Horne (1950-1978)
Venita Varden (1936-1945)

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

Jack Oakie was born as Lewis Delaney Offield in Sedalia, Missouri. His father was a grain dealer and his mother a psychology teacher.[1] When he was five years old the Offield family moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma, the source of his "Oakie" nickname.[1] His adopted first name, Jack, was the name of the first character he played on stage. Young Lewis/Jack grew up mostly in Oklahoma but also lived for periods of time with his grandmother in Kansas City, Missouri. While there he attended Woodland Elementary and made spending money as a paperboy for The Kansas City Star. He recalled years later that he made especially good money selling "extras" in November, 1916 during the reelection of President Woodrow Wilson.[1]

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 Nellie 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[2] as saying of his studio career:

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.

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.

Television and radio

Not being limited by a film studio contract, Oakie branched into radio and had his own radio show between 1936 and 1938.

Late in his career he appeared in various episodes of a number of television shows, including The Real McCoys (1957), Breaking Point (Episode #22 A Child of the Center Ring,1964), Daniel Boone (1966), and Bonanza (1966).

Personal life

Oakie was married twice. His first marriage to Venita Varden in 1936 ended in 1938 when Venita got an interlocutory decree of divorce. They reconciled, but ultimately got finally divorced in 1944. (She died in 1948 in the crash of United Airlines Flight 624 at Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania).

Oakie's second marriage was to actress Victoria Horne in 1950, with whom he lived at "Oakridge" until his death in 1978.

Jack Oakie died on 23 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.

Oakridge estate

Jack and Victoria Oakie lived their entire married life at "Oakridge", their 11-acre (45,000 m2) estate at 18650 Devonshire Street (just west of Reseda Boulevard) in Northridge, a suburb Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. They acquired the former "Marwyck" estate of actress Barbara Stanwyck in 1950. Stanwyck commissioned the original residence designed by Paul Williams. Oakie planted a citrus orchard and bred Afghan Hounds, at one time having up to 100 dogs on the property.

Victoria Oakie continued to live there after her husband's death and bequeathed the estate to the University of Southern California, who sold it to developers. After two failed attempts to develop the property, Oakridge was acquired by the City of Los Angeles in 2010. Oakridge is considered to be one of the last remnants of the large Northridge equestrian estates, famed for former thoroughbred breeding. The city plans to use the property as a park and community event center. The Paul Williams house and the grounds are Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #484.[3][4][5]


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."[6]

Jack Oakie's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard, and his hand and footprints can be found at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

A small display celebrating the comedy and fame of Jack Oakie is at Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. There is a plaque in the ground in front of the home where he was born in Sedalia, Missouri.

Jack Oakie is mentioned in the Coen Brothers film Barton Fink, which is set in Hollywood during the 1940s.


1923His Children's Children
1928Road HouseSam
Someone to LoveMichael Casey
The Fleet's InSearchlight Doyle
1929Fast CompanyElmer Kane
SweetieTap-Tap Thompson
Hard to GetMarty Martin
Street GirlJoe Spring(USA title: Barber John's Boy)
The Man I LoveLew Layton
Close HarmonyBen Barney
The Wild PartyAl
The DummyDopey Hart
Sin Town"Chicken" O'Toole
1930Sea LegsSearchlight Doyle
Let's Go NativeVoltaire McGinnis
The Sap From SyracuseLittleton Looney(aka The Sap from Abroad from Abroad)
Paramount on ParadeHimself(as one of the MC's of the film)
The Social LionMarco Perkins
Hit the DeckBilge
1931TouchdownBabe Barton(UK title: Playing the Game)
Dude RanchJennifer
June MoonFrederick Martin Stevens
The Gang Buster"Cyclone" Case
1932If I Had a MillionPvt. Mulligan
Uptown New YorkEddie Doyle
Madison Sq. GardenEddie Burke
Once in a LifetimeGeorge Lewis
Million Dollar LegsMigg Tweeny
Sky BrideAlec Dugan
Dancers in the DarkDuke Taylor
1933Alice in WonderlandTweedledum
Sitting PrettyChick Parker
Too Much HarmonyBenny Day
College HumorBarney Shirrel
The Eagle and the HawkMike Richards
Sailor Be GoodKelsey Jones
From Hell to HeavenCharlie Bayne
1934College RhythmFrancis J. Finnegan
Shoot the WorksNicky Nelson(UK title: Thank Your Stars)
Murder at the VanitiesJack Ellery
Looking for TroubleCasey
1935King of BurlesqueJoe Cooney
The Big Broadcast of 1936Spud Miller
The Call of the WildShorty Hoolihan
1936That Girl from ParisWhammo Lonsdale
The Texas RangersHenry B. "Wahoo" Jones
Florida SpecialBangs Carter
ColleenJoe Cork
Collegiate (UK title: Charm School)Jerry Craig
1937Hitting a New HighCorny Davis
Fight for Your LadyHam Hamilton
The Toast of New YorkLuke
Super-SleuthWillard "Bill" Martin
Champagne WaltzHappy Gallagher
1938Thanks for EverythingBrady
Annabel Takes a TourLanny Morgan(aka Annabel Takes a Trip Takes a Trip)
The Affairs of AnnabelLanny Morgan
Radio City RevelsHarry Miller
1940Little MenWillie the Fox
Tin Pan AlleyHarry Calhoun
The Great DictatorBenzino NapaloniNominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Young PeopleJoe Ballantine
1941Rise and ShineBoley Bolenciecwcz
Navy BluesCake O'Hara
The Great American BroadcastChuck Hadley
1942IcelandSlip Riggs(UK title: Katina)
Song of the IslandsRusty Smith
1943WintertimeSkip Hutton
Hello Frisco, HelloDan Daley
Something to Shout AboutLarry Martin
1944Bowery to BroadwayMichael O'Rourke
The Merry MonahansPete Monahan
Sweet and Low-DownPopsy
It Happened TomorrowUncle Oscar Smith aka Gigolini
1945On Stage EverybodyMichael Sullivan
That's the SpiritSteve "Slim" Gogarty
1946She Wrote the BookJerry Marlowe
1948When My Baby Smiles at MeBozo
Northwest StampedeMike Kirby (Clem)
1949Thieves' HighwaySlob
1950Last of the BuccaneersSgt. Dominick
1951TomahawkSol Beckworth(UK title: Battle of Powder River)
1956Around the World in Eighty DaysCaptain of the Henrietta
1959The Wonderful CountryTravis Hyte
1960The Rat RaceMac, Owner of Macs Bar
1961Lover Come BackJ. Paxton Miller



  1. ^ a b c Christensen, Lawrence O.; Foley, William E., Kremer, Gary R. (1999). Dictionary of Missouri Biography.. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. p. 578. 
  2. ^ Jack Oakie biography at the Internet Movie Database website. Accessed 16 June 2007.
  3. ^ Book description for Jack Oakie's Oakridge at Amazon.com. Accessed 16 June 2007.
  4. ^ "City of Los Angeles Acquires Historic Oakridge Estate" (PDF). City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning, Office of Historic Resources. July 2010. p. 5. http://www.preservation.lacity.org/files/July%202010%20Newsletter.pdf. Retrieved November 6, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) List" (PDF). City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning, Office of Historic Resources. August 9, 2010. http://www.preservation.lacity.org/files/HCMDatabase080910.pdf. Retrieved November 6, 2010. 
  6. ^ "The Jack Oakie Lecture on Comedy in Film" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website. Accessed 16 June 2007.

External links