Martha Raye (August 27, 1916 – October 19, 1994) was an American comic actress and standards singer who performed in movies, and later on television. Inscribed Photograph, n.d. - 8 x 10 B/W written in blk ink in the hand of the author. Overall, fine/very fine condition.
She also acted in plays, including Broadway. She was honored in 1969 with an Academy Award as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient for her volunteer efforts and services to the troops.
Raye's life as a singer and comedic performer began in very early childhood. She was born at St. James Hospital in Butte, Montana, as Margy Reed. Her father was an immigrant of Irish descent, and her mother was raised in Milwaukee and Montana.
In the early 1930s, Raye was a band vocalist with the Paul Ash and Boris Morros orchestras. She made her first film appearance in 1934 in a band short titled A Nite in the Nite Club.
In 1936 she was signed for comic roles by Paramount Pictures, and made her first picture for Paramount. Her first feature film was Rhythm on the Range with crooner Bing Crosby.
From 1936-39, she was a featured cast member in 39 episodes of Al Jolson's weekly CBS radio show, "The Lifebuoy Program” aka “Cafe Trocadero.” In addition to comedy, Martha sang both solos and duets with Jolson. Over the next quarter century, she would appear with many of the leading comics of her day, including Joe E. Brown, Bob Hope, W. C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Charlie Chaplin and Jimmy Durante. She joined the USO soon after the US entered World War II.
She was known for the size of her mouth, which was large in proportion to the rest of her face, thus earning her the nickname The Big Mouth. She later referred to this in a series of commercials for Polident denture cleaner in the 1980s: "So take it from The Big Mouth: new Polident Green gets tough stains clean!" Her large mouth would come to relegate her motion picture work to largely supporting comic parts, and was often made up in such a way that it appeared even larger than it was to begin with.
Her final years were plagued by ill health. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease and had lost both legs in 1993 from poor circulation. While in poor health and resting in the hospital bed, that had to be placed in her home, Martha and husband Mark Harris moved into a hotel after their home was completely destroyed by the 1994 earthquake.
Raye died in Los Angeles at 78 of pneumonia on October 19, 1994 after a long history of cardiovascular disease.
In appreciation of her work with the USO during World War II and subsequent wars, special consideration was given to bury her in Arlington National Cemetery on her death, but on her request she was buried with full military honors in the Fort Bragg, North Carolina post cemetery as an honorary colonel in the U.S. Marines and an honorary lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. She is the only civilian buried at this location who receives military honors each Veterans’ Day.
Raye has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures at 6251 Hollywood Boulevard and the other for television at 6547 Hollywood Blvd.