Martha Raye

From Academic Kids

Martha Raye (1916-October 19, 1994) was an American comic actress and singer in motion pictures and later, on television.

Miss Raye was best known for the size of her mouth, which appeared enormous in proportion to the rest of her face. It relegated her motion picture work to largely supporting comic parts. She became known as "The Big Mouth"; apparently she was often made up in a way which tended to cause it to appear as even larger than it actually already was. For example, she appears in the picture The Big Broadcast of 1938 where Bob Hope first sings what became his theme song, Thanks for the Memories; however, it is not sung to Miss Raye, but rather the female leading actress that she supports. She joined the USO soon after the US entered World War II. During WW2, Korea and Vietnam, Martha travelled extensively to entertain the American troops.

In October 1966, Martha came to Soc Trang, Vietnam, to entertain the troops at this base which was the home base of the 121st Aviation company, the Soc Trang Tigers and the gun-ship platoon, The Vikings along with the 336th Aviation company. Shortly after her arrival, both units were called out on a mission to extract supposed POWs from an area nearby. Martha decided to hold her troop of entertainers there until the mission was completed so that all could watch her show. During that time, I was flying a "Huey Slick" carrying troops into the LZ. My ship received combat damage to the extent that I had to return to base at Soc Trang and, as there were no replacements, we could not return to the mission. While waiting, Martha played poker with us (I should have known better) and was very genial. When the mission was completed, which had resulted in the loss of a helicopter gun-ship and a Viking pilot, CWO2 James W. Hargrove, there was also a wounded officer, Major R. Nutter, Viking Lead, acting as co-pilot who had been wounded when that ship went down. When he and the two remaining crewmen were returned to Soc Trang, Martha volunteered to assist the doctor in treating the wounded Major Nutter. When all had been completed, Martha waited until all were available and then put on her show. An outstanding trooper and wonderful person. In 1968, she was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in the form of an Oscar. In November of 1993, President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Miss Raye was an early television star when that medium was very young; for a while she had her own program, The Martha Raye Show, in which she was the lead and her awkward boyfriend was portrayed by retired middleweight boxer Rocky Graziano. In the late 1950s she made a well-publicized suicide attempt which may have been partially related to the breakup of her marriage to conductor-composer David Rose.

In 1970 she portrayed Boss Witch, the "Queen of all Witch-dom" in the film Pufnstuf. She often appeared as a guest on other programs, particularly ones which often had older performers as guest stars, such as The Love Boat, and on variety programs. She also appeared in a number of commercials for a denture adhesive product which emphasized its importance to her appearance due to the size of her mouth. In addition to the aforementioned television work, she appeared for two years as Mel Sharples' mother, Carrie, on the sitcom Alice.

Martha Raye was deeply patriotic and, thanks to her work with the USO during World War II and subsequent wars, special consideration was given to bury her in Arlington National Cemetery upon her death. She was buried with full military honors on Saturday, in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

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