American actor. Born at home to Irish-English parents in a New York City tenement on February 7, 1894, Joe Devlin entered show business on the vaudeville circuits during WWI under an assumed name, Christopher J. Mathews, perhaps dodging the draft board or maybe the young woman he had married in 1913. During this time, Joe encountered a 17-year-old fan, Iva Boudry, at the stage door of a theater in Utica, NY who traveled with him and had two sons during their time on the vaudeville wheels: Robert Mathews (1920-1963) and William Mathews (1922-1996). After 20 years in vaudeville and burlesque, Joe moved to Hollywood in 1937 for a short-lived contract with Warner Brothers and he spent the next 30 years freelancing in radio, film, and television. He often played a bartender, a cab driver, or a henchman, likely reminding him of his younger brother, Frank, who was involved in organized crime in the 1920s and was found murdered in a frozen New Jersey field in 1929.|
Joe filmed scenes in four streamliners at the Hal Roach Studios in 1942, twice playing Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. When he was shooting "The Devil with Hitler" (under the working title Hitler's Valet) in the spring of 1942, several papers printed a story about Joe's contract with Roach including this from Hollywood columnist Hugh Dixon: "Best press-agent story of the week: Joe Devlin is playing Mussolini in "Hitler's Valet" at Hal Roach's and the role requires him to shave his head. Mrs. Devlin doesn't like her husband with his head shaved, so yesterday Ed Henry, the actor's agent, had a clause inserted in Devlin's option lifts, and if he continues to play Il Duce in the planned series of four pictures, Joe will be paid for (1) his services, (2) his haircut, and (3) his decreased appeal to Mrs. Devlin."