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Keefe Brasselle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Keefe Brasselle
Keefe Brasselle 1954.jpg
Brasselle in 1954
Henry Keefe Brasselle

(1923-02-07)February 7, 1923
DiedJuly 7, 1981(1981-07-07) (aged 58)
  • Actor
  • producer
  • author
Years active1942–1973
Norma Jean Aldrich
(m. 1942; div. 1956)

Arlene DeMarco
(m. 1956; div. 1967)

Keefe Brasselle (born Henry Keefe Brasselle February 7, 1923 – July 7, 1981) was an American film actor, television actor/producer and author. He is best remembered for the starring role in The Eddie Cantor Story (1953).

Early years and career

Keefe Brasselle broke into motion pictures while serving in the U. S. Navy. His first co-starring role was opposite singing star Gloria Jean in the waterfront mystery River Gang (1945). His dark, chorus-boy looks landed him featured roles in movies through the early 1950s.

He was groomed for stardom in The Eddie Cantor Story, filmed in response to the wildly successful The Jolson Story and Jolson Sings Again starring Larry Parks as Al Jolson, one of Cantor's musical-comedy contemporaries. The Eddie Cantor Story could not equal the success of the Jolson films, largely because Brasselle didn't fit the role physically. Standing almost a foot taller than the real Cantor, and unable to convey Cantor's natural warmth, Brasselle's performance became a caricature: the actor played most of his scenes with bulging eyes and busy hands, which was effective in the musical numbers but awkward in the dramatic scenes. Ultimately, Brasselle's career did not launch as anticipated. In 1954, he was a guest on an episode (season 4, episode 21, Feb. 21, 1954) of The Colgate Comedy Hour with host Gene Wesson, as a promotional tie-in for the film. Brasselle's other career highlights include appearances in the films Never Fear (1949), A Place in the Sun (1951), and Battle Stations (1956).

Nightclubs and television

Brasselle turned to nightclubs, where he appeared as a singer and comedian. In 1961, an Edison Township, New Jersey, nightclub owned by Brasselle burned under suspicious circumstances.[1] Fire officials came across six empty cans of gasoline at the scene, while their caps and spouts were found separately in a paper bag.[1]

In the summer of 1963, Brasselle starred in a summer replacement series for The Garry Moore Show. Called The Keefe Brasselle Show, the program featured actress Ann B. Davis as herself in three episodes.

Brasselle had a close friendship with CBS executive James Aubrey. Brasselle started his own production company, "Richelieu Productions," and Aubrey granted Brasselle's company three television series without any previous script, pitch or pilots. The insider-chicanery resulted in a lawsuit against Aubrey and Brasselle launched by CBS shareholders. There were rumors that Aubrey had no choice in the matter due to threats from the Mafia, with which Brasselle was known to be connected.[2] During the 1964–1965 season, Brasselle's company produced three new but untested series: The Baileys of Balboa, The Cara Williams Show, and The Reporter, starring Harry Guardino. Those series suffered from poor ratings. Aubrey was removed as president of CBS Television in February 1965 after a long court battle.

Brasselle later wrote a novel that was a thinly disguised account of his relationship with Aubrey and the network, The CanniBal$ (1968),[3] followed by a sequel, The Barracudas (1973), in which he attacked several showbiz figures he'd worked with, including comedian Jack Benny.[4] Brasselle struggled to find work after his CBS experience and tried to relaunch his fading career, as a self-styled "modern minstrel" recording artist.

Personal life

In 1942, Brasselle married Norma Jean Aldrich; Brasselle was age 19 at the time. The marriage ended in divorce in 1956.

That same year, Brasselle married the singer Arlene DeMarco[5] (January 28, 1933 – February 19, 2013).[6] They divorced in 1967.[7]

Brasselle was of the Roman Catholic faith[8] and a lifelong Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.[9]

Later years and death

In 1974, Brasselle signed on as director of the low-budget sex comedy If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind (released 1975; shown in Britain as You Must Be Joking). This was a feature-length parade of burlesque blackouts, double-entendre jokes, and bawdy song-and-dance numbers. Brasselle staged the musical numbers himself and even appeared as a specialty act, embellishing his performance with Eddie Cantor's gestures and mannerisms. The film was booked into hundreds of theaters for midnight shows and, despite scathing reviews from mainstream critics, was very popular with college students; it earned more than four million dollars.

Keefe Brasselle died from liver disease in 1981, at age 58.

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Stars in the Air The House on 92nd Street [10]


Year Title Role Notes
1942 USS VD: Ship of Shame Chicken Uncredited
1944 Janie Soldier Uncredited
1944 Three Little Sisters Soldier Uncredited
1945 River Gang Johnny
1947 Bells of San Angelo Ignacio Uncredited
1947 Repeat Performance Delivery Boy Uncredited
1947 Killer at Large Copy Boy Uncredited
1947 Heartaches Gus. Prop Boy Uncredited
1947 Railroaded! Cowie Kowalski
1947 T-Men Ocean Park Hotel Desk Clerk Uncredited
1948 The Babe Ruth Story Call Boy Uncredited
1949 Not Wanted Drew Baxter
1950 Never Fear Guy Richards
1950 Dial 1119 Skip
1951 A Place in the Sun Earl Eastman
1951 Bannerline Mike Perrivale
1951 The Unknown Man Rudi Wallchek
1951 It's a Big Country Sgt. Maxie Klein
1952 Skirts Ahoy! Dick Hallson
1953 The Eddie Cantor Story Eddie Cantor
1954 Three Young Texans Tony Ballew
1955 Mad at the World Sam Bennett aka Bill Holland
1955 Bring Your Smile Along Martin 'Marty' Adams
1956 Battle Stations Chris Jordan
1957 West of Suez Brett Manders
1958 Death Over My Shoulder Jack Regan
1973 Black Gunn Winman
1975 If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind Himself (final film role)


  1. ^ a b "Nightclub Fire Mystery". The Miami News. 28 July 1961. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  2. ^ "The Keefe Brasselle Show". Archive of American Television. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  3. ^ Schapp, Dick (1968-09-09). "An UnaBRidgEd Yarn". New York. Retrieved 2017-06-03 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Josefsberg, Milt (3 June 1977). The Jack Benny Show. Arlington House Publishers. ISBN 087000347X.
  5. ^ "Actor Keith Brasselle, Singer are Married". Reading Eagle. 24 December 1956. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  6. ^ Brandi, Lisa. "Tribute to Arlene DeMarco, Lead Singer of The Five DeMarco Sisters". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  7. ^ Deutsch, Linda (12 December 1971). "Arlene DeMarco Spills the Beans". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  8. ^ Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
  9. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  10. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 35 (2): 32–39. Spring 2009.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 January 2022, at 03:30
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