Emmett Kelly, Sr.

Clown

Born: 9 December 1898
Died: 28 March 1979 (heart attack)
Birthplace: Sedan, Kansas
Best known as:

The melancholy tramp clown Weary Willie

Name at birth: Emmett Leo Kelly

Emmett Kelly, Sr. was likely the world's most famous clown of the mid-20th century, known for his silent, sad sack hobo character, Weary Willie. Originally a cartoonist, Kelly joined the circus in London, where he began on the trapeze (sometimes with his first wife, Eva Moore). He also doubled as a traditional white-faced clown, but eventually developed the tramp character Willlie. Between 1941 and 1956, Kelly performed with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, becoming a star in the circus world. He left to be the Brooklyn Dodgers mascot, then spent the rest of his career appearing in nightclubs, on TV shows and in movies. His signature act involved sweeping the spotlight into a dustpan, but never quite getting the job done. During the 1970s, Kelly had a public feud with his son, Emmett Kelly, Jr., who was performing his own version of Weary Willie without his father's permission.

Extra credit:

Emmett Kelly, Sr.'s most famous film appearance is probably in the 1952 Cecil B. DeMille movie, The Greatest Show on Earth, an Oscar winner for Best Picture. Kelly played a clown.

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