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 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.
Martha Raye Facts
|Margaret Teresa Yvonne Reed
|August 27, 1916
|Butte, Montana, USA
|Date of death
|October 19, 1994 (age 78)
|5' 3" (1m60) How tall is Martha Raye compared to you?
|1974 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Life Achievement Award