Raye was born Margaret Yvonne Teresa Reed on August 27, 1916 in Butte,
Montana. From her Vaudeville stage debut at age three, Martha Raye went
on to conquer literally every entertainment medium -- stage, screen,
radio, television, records, night clubs, as well as countless
performances for her beloved Armed Forces.
For a lifetime of giving of herself, Martha Raye was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Academy Award in 1968, and was a Legend Nominee in the 1999 American Film Institute's "100 Years -- 100 Stars" program.
Her first film appearance came in a band short entitled A Nite in a Nite Club in 1934. In 1936, Paramount brought her on board and easily and immediately established her screen character in her feature debut, starring Bing Crosby, entitled Rhythm on the Range (1936). Martha burst onto the silver screen as a boisterous, outspoken physical comedianne eager to please her potential suitors. She attacked musical numbers with the same zeal and professional fervor with which she executed a pratt fall or a comically muddled, inaccurate dance step. It was this intelligent, tough, second-fiddle charm and her impeccable attunement to comedic timing which initially won her the hearts of America and would eventually aid in easing the homesick frustrations of thousands of U.S. soldiers.
Over the next 26 years, she would go on to make nearly two dozen movies, regularly cast alongside such comic greats as Joe E. Brown, Bob Hope, W.C. Fields and Abbott & Costello before being cast in her final great feature role in 1962, opposite Jimmy Durante as the second leads in the musical circus comedy, Billy Rose's Jumbo. Nearly indisputably, Martha's proudest role came alongside Charlie Chaplin in his dark comedy, Monsieur Verdoux, a story of a woman unwittingly escaping her husband's several attempts at her murder. Her final movie, Airport '79 - The Concorde, was a sequel to the original Airport movie. She was hilarious in her comedic cameo, an accompishment of which she was extremely proud.
Martha was also an active supporter of the U.S. military, and in addition to starring in numerous feature films, hosting a television show and making dozens of prime time TV appearances, she selflessly volunteered a substantial portion of her time and talents to entertain U.S. troops overseas throughout World War II, The Korean War and the Viet Nam conflict. She has been cited with dozens of awards from the U.S. military and was the first female recipient of the Jean Hersholdt Humanitarian Award. Among countless prestigious commendations and several presentations of honorary military status, Martha received The Woman of the Year Award from the VFW, as well as from the USO, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest commendation of a civilian. She has also been recognized by Hollywood, including the Outstanding Acheivment Award from the Screen Actors Guild. She also has three stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.