Eddie Bracken was a mainstay of Paramount comedies and musicals in the 1940s and a favorite of director Preston Sturges, who cast him in the madcap "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" and "Hail the Conquering Hero."
Bracken brought a sense of vitality to his film roles in the '40s and early '50s, when he was often cast as the over-eager bumbler with names like Basil "Dizzy" Evans, Norval Jones, Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith, Ogden Spencer Trulow III, Orville Wingait and Frederick Winthrop Clopp.
One critic at the time described the typical Bracken role as "the long-suffering, plaintive type who muddles through difficult situations, never knowing quite how he escapes with a whole skin."
Among Bracken's 35 films are "Caught in the Draft" (1941), with Bob Hope; "The Fleet's In" (1942), with Betty Hutton; "Star Spangled Rhythm" (1942), with Bing Crosby and Hutton; "The Girl From Jones Beach" (1949), with Ronald Reagan; "Summer Stock" (1950), with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly; and "We're Not Married" (1952), with Mitzi Gaynor and Marilyn Monroe.
Bracken achieved his greatest screen successes in "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" and "Hail the Conquering Hero." The films, both released in 1944, established Bracken as both an actor and a comedian.
In the hilarious and racy-for-its-time "Miracle," he's cast opposite Hutton, who drinks at an all-night party, gets pregnant and can't remember the name of the father. Bracken is her faithful boyfriend, who winds up marrying Hutton and becoming father to the "miracle": sextuplets.
In the satirical "Hail the Conquering Hero," he plays a small-town military reject who unwillingly poses as a Marine war hero who is caught up in a wave of hometown hero worship.
Born in Astoria, Queens, in 1915, Bracken was 4 or 5 when he began a show that became an older brother to amateur contests at the Astoria Grand Theater. Bracken would sing and dance and then take home first prize.
While in elementary school, he began appearing as the rich kid in "The New York Kiddie Troupers," a series of silent movie shorts filmed in New York.
As a teenager, he toured the country in a show called "Lottery," a parody of early melodramas. He received his big break in the mid-1930s when director George Abbott cast him as the lead in the national touring company of "Brother Rat," a comedy about life in a Virginia military academy.
Bracken went on to appear in Abbott's Broadway production of the comedy "What a Life," the forerunner to the radio and film series about teenager Henry Aldrich, whom Bracken played when the play went on tour. By the end of the national tour, his leading lady, Constance Nickerson, became his wife.
In 1939, he was costarring on Broadway in "Too Many Girls," a Rodgers and Hart musical, when he caught the eye of Hollywood, which brought him out to appear in the movie version.
While Bracken was waiting, his daughter said, he was cast in the comedy "Life With Henry," which starred Jackie Cooper as Henry Aldrich and Bracken as his best friend, Dizzy.
Bracken earned two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for his radio series, "The Eddie Bracken Show," and the other for his work on television, including appearances on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Rawhide" and "Murder She Wrote."