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Joe Kirkwood Jr. Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (9)  | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died in Hesperia, California, USA  (pulmonary disease)
Birth NameReginald Thomas Kirkwood
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Best remembered as strapping comic strip boxer Joe Palooka on screen in the late 1940s and early 1950s, fair-haired, amiable-looking, exceedingly athletic Joe Kirkwood, Jr. may have been the son of renowned professional golfer and trick artist Joe Kirkwood, but he was actually born Reginald Thomas Kirkwood on May 30, 1920 in Melbourne, Australia, the second of two sons. His father eventually took young Reginald and older brother Donald to the United States to live where they settled in Philadelphia for a time before moving to Florida. Joe eventually boarded at a military academy in Georgia where he excelled in sports, including golf, tennis, swimming and boxing. It was at this juncture that he started to win sports tournaments himself and decided to bill himself "Joe Kirkwood, Jr." in honor of his famous father.

Despite his sports capabilities, Joe Jr. suffered from asthma and high blood pressure and, after joining the Army in 1943, was medically discharged 8 months into his tour of duty. A year later he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force but was released again for the same disabilities.

While performing in a Los Angeles golf tournament, the handsome sportsman was noticed by director David Butler and was given a Warner Bros. screen test and signed. Not much happened and, after a few uncredited parts in such movies as Night and Day (1946), he was released. Later when Monogram had a nationwide search for someone to play their lead comic strip role of wholesome boxer Joe Palooka, they found what they were looking for in fresh-faced, handsome Joe, Jr. Co-starring comedy legend Leon Errol as his manager, 11 Palooka films were made between the years 1946 and 1951 with various actresses filming the role of Joe's girlfriend and later wife. An amateur boxer earlier, Joe did his own boxing stunts in the film. In between filming, Joe continued on the professional golfing circuit.

Following that series, little popped up outside of the Palooka association. In 1954 he starred and was associate producer of the TV series The Joe Palooka Story (1954). Real-life actress wife Cathy Downs played Palooka wife Anne in the series with Luis Van Rooten in the support role of Knobby. When the series went off the air, Downs filed for divorce claiming abandonment -- that he preferred golf over her. Kirkwood later began a long term relationship in 1968 with the much younger Joyce Woltz. It lasted and they later married in1980.

Other than a few jobs on radio, on TV and the film The Marriage-Go-Round (1961), he was now completely focused on his golf career. He later turned entrepreneur, investing smartly and buying land in the Los Angeles Valley area where he made an especially lucrative investment by building a golf course, restaurant and sports center. He later owned a bowling alley. Kirkwood died at age 86 in Hesperia, California, and is interred at Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Apple Valley.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (2)

Joyce Ann Woltz (1980 - 7 September 2006) ( his death)
Cathy Downs (8 October 1949 - 24 December 1955) ( divorced)

Trivia (9)

He and second wife Joyce were married in 1980 but had lived together since 1958.
Joe later owned and piloted a series of airplanes. 25-year-old actor Robert Francis, whose star was rising fast in Hollywood, was piloting one of Joe's aircraft when he was killed in a fiery crash on July 31, 1955, along with Joe's golf course business partner, Irving George Meyer, 38, and aspiring actress Ann Russell, 24. The three perished shortly after take-off from the Burbank airport when the plane quickly lost power, stalled, crashed and burst into flames onto Vanowen Street. What remains a mystery is that Meyer was the veteran pilot of the three and Francis lacked formal training or experience but was at the controls. The co-pilot's seat was empty at the time of the crash.
Son of famous golfer and trick artist Joe Kirkwood Sr..
Renowned champion golfer who won the role of boxer Joe Palooka in the films series of the same name.
Joe tried to draw up a trust fund for his ex-wife, Cathy Downs, after learning she was suffering from terminal cancer and living in abject poverty. Downs died before he could set it up.
Born in Australia, he became an American citizen on January 25, 1950.
According to Laura Wagner in a full length article on Joe, he neglected to report for an Army physical in Philadelphia and was found guilty of failing to obey a draft board order. He received a 60 day suspended sentence.
Once faced a paternity suit leveled at him in July 1949 by a Massachusetts woman. She won and Joe had to pay $4000 in support. His then-girlfriend, actress Cathy Downs stuck by him during the trial. They married on October 8 of that year.
Once made news because of a fight that ensued with singer Johnnie Johnston at the Riviera Country Club. Johnston claims Joe spread rumors about the singer and Shirley Temple. Joe and Johnnie had been good friends with Joe serving as "best man" when Johnnie wed singer/actress Kathryn Grayson.

Personal Quotes (2)

I tried using a double once during one of the films...and the fights just didn't look real. Now I tell the boxers who are cast against me to do their best because I'm ready for them and the better man is going to get the best shots. I don't mind getting knocked out as long as they revive me by waving my paycheck across my face. Achilles might have had his heel, but I've got a glass temple and glass ear. -- JK, in describing the stunt work done on his Joe Palooka film series
Movies were fun and golf still is. -- JK, in a 1980s interview

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