Joe Cook (actor)

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    Joe Cook (1890 – May 15, 1959) was an American actor, comedian, and entertainer most known for his work on Broadway but who also appeared in motion pictures.

    Born Joe Lopez in Evansville, Indiana in 1890, he was orphaned and adopted by relatives at the age of three. He lived in the back of the grocery store of his adoptive parents at the corner of Fourth and Oak in Evansville. Cook joined a circus in 1906 which propelled him to vaudeville, Broadway and Hollywood.

    He made seven films during the 1930s, including “Rain or Shine,” a 1930 Columbia Pictures movie about circus life, directed by Frank Capra. The film was based on Cook’s 1928 Broadway show – part of the plot revolves around Cook having to perform as a sort of one-man circus, so Cook performed a wide variety of circus acts, including acrobatics, juggling and high wire stunts. Cook was one of the key stars of Educational Pictures, a small studio best known for its pictures of very varying degree of quality that showcased the talents of unknown future stars, has-beens, and Broadway entertainers who were well-known on the stage but little known in movies.

    Though he was never a major movie star and his motion pictures are now largely forgotten, Cook was a major Broadway star of his day and was well paid during his career, reportedly earning $4,000 a week on the stage. He credited his investment in government bonds as the key to his surviving the Great Depression with most of his fortune intact.

    His home for many years was on the shore of Lake Hopatcong in northwestern New Jersey (in the Borough of Hopatcong) in a house he named “Sleepless Hollow”.

    Cook’s career was prematurely ended by Parkinson’s disease in 1942. He died on May 15, 1959.

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