Born to a Jewish family in Montreal, Quebec, Blue emigrated to Baltimore, Maryland at the age of nine, where he won a contest for the best impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. At the age of fifteen he was in a touring company and later became a stage manager and assistant general manager. He became a dance instructor and nightclub proprietor. In the 1920s Blue joined a popular orchestra, Jack White and His Montrealers. The entire band emphasized comedy, and would continually interact with the joke-cracking maestro. Blue, the drummer, would sometimes deliver corny jokes while wearing a ridiculously false beard. The band emigrated to the United States, and appeared in two early sound musicals — the Vitaphone short subject Jack White and His Montrealers and Universal’s feature-length 2-strip Technicolor revue King of Jazz (1930). In 1930, Blue toured with the “Earl Carroll Vanities”. Blue left the band to establish himself as a solo comedian, portraying a bald-headed dumb-bell with a goofy expression. Producer Hal Roach featured him in his “Taxi Boys” comedy shorts, but Blue’s dopey character was an acquired taste and he was soon replaced by other comedians. Later in the 1930s he worked at Paramount Pictures, notably in The Big Broadcast of 1938, and later at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in films such as Easy to Wed. In 1950, he had his own short-lived TV series, The Ben Blue Show, and was also a regular on The Frank Sinatra Show.
In 1951, Blue began concentrating on managing and appearing in nightclubs in Hollywood, California and San Francisco he once appeared in a Reno, Nevada nightclub called the Dollhouse where he lost $25,000 to its owner, Bill Welch. Blue and Maxie Rosenbloom owned and performed in Hollywood’s top nightclub in the 1940s called “Slapsie Maxie’s.” Again, in the 1960s he opened a nightclub in Santa Monica, California, called “Ben Blue’s”. It quickly became the “in” place and night after night was packed with top celebrities. Ben closed the club three years later because of health problems. Blue made the cover of TV Guide’s June 11, 1954 Special Issue along with Alan Young, headlining an edition featuring that season’s summer replacement shows. He also made appearances in TV shows such as The Jack Benny Program and The Milton Berle Show. In 1958, he starred in a television pilot called Ben Blue’s Brothers, in which he played four different parts. The show did not get picked up by a network, but the pilot was seen in 1965. In It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, his role was the pilot of the Standard J-1 biplane that flew Sid Caesar and Edie Adams. Blue also made an appearance in the 1945 film Ziegfeld Follies. Ben Blue started making cameos in comedy movies around the 1960s. One of his most-recognized roles in films was as Luther Grilk, the town drunk, in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He especially had a recurring role in Jerry Van Dyke’s television series Accidental Family in 1967. He worked his way until his final film appearance, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?, in 1968. He made one of his last television appearances in Land of the Giants in 1969. He was also seen the following year in the Dora Hall vanity syndicated television special, “Once Upon a Tour”. Blue died in Hollywood, California on March 7, 1975 and was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. After his death, his career papers covering 1935 to 1955 were deposited in the Special Collections at the University of California, Los Angeles Library.
- September, 12, 1901
- Montreal, Quebec
- March, 07, 1975
- Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
- Hillside Memorial Park
- Culver City, California