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Emmett Kelly - Weary Willie Sad Clown Collectible Dolls

I remember how Emmett Kelley would make us laugh when I was a child. I have always loved clowns and he was my favorite.

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World Famous Clown

Emmett Kelly - Weary Willie Sad Clown Collectible Dolls

Emmett Kelly - Weary Willie Sad Clown Collectible Dolls

Emmett Kelly As Weary Willie Collectible Doll

When I see Weary Willie collectible dolls or hear the name Emmett Kelly, I, as most fans immediately have a picture in mind of the heart-tugging character, Weary Willie (W.W.), that Kelly created. In fact, it seemed that the man and the character were inseparable. Many people, way back when and into the present, just see the figure as Emmett Kelly (E.M.). In fact, when I first saw the large sad-faced hobo clown doll, I heard myself saying with glee in my voice, “Oh, an Emmett Kelly doll!”.

I was mesmerized from the moment I saw the hobo clown doll. A little part of me was holding itself quiet just like I did when I would wait for Emmet Leo Kelly, Sr. to talk when he was on center stage on television. He had a way of holding his audience's full attention without speaking a single word. The comedian was masterful in his presentation on TV, and I can imagine he was the same buffoon during his circus acts.

W.W. had that sad sack look down to perfection. In character, E.K., Sr. seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Oddly, his sad face made us all feel good. It seemed like he had the ability to lift a little of the cares of the world off our own shoulders, for those brief precious moments that he entertained us.

America’s most famous and recognizable clown icon was masterminded by comic Emmett Kelly Sr. At that time, clowns were depicted with white makeup and happy faces. But, his vision for a sad-faced hobo clown met some resistance with the management, but then quickly won the hearts of audiences everywhere he performed. Most likely the part of his act that fans waited for the most was when W.W. picked up his broom and tried to sweep up the spotlight’s beam. The spot would move around on the floor and he would get it smaller, but it never totally disappeared as we watched in delight.

We were blessed once again in 1960 when Emmett Kelly, Jr. resurrected a not quite as sad hobo character. That saying, “Like father, like son”, became a reality for them and many wonderful smiles for us as they lifted us to a special place. Sadly, it was not exactly a “passing of the baton”, from father to son. As the father was not at all pleased with his son’s re-creation of the role and there were some hard feelings between them for many years. Eventually, the son retired from being the sad clown in 2004.

An Adorable Doll's Sad Clown Face

Sad Clown Face of Weary Willie

Sad Clown Face of Weary Willie

My Memories of Weary Willie

One of my dearly departed aunts had an Emmett Kelly Jr. figurine displayed on the top of her china cabinet. I did like all the old colorful glassware, but my eye was always drawn to the hand painted ceramic Weary Willie clown doll figure.

Someday I hope to get some photos of that sad-faced clown figurine. It has been put away in storage for safe keeping since my auntie passed away. I will ask about doing a personal photo shoot with the world famous icon, Weary Willie's keepsake doll.

Vintage Clown Doll

Vintage Collectible Hobo Clown Doll

Vintage Collectible Hobo Clown Doll

Comical Puppet Doll

Ventriloquist Doll Video

Q&A's

Cut-Up Emmett Kelly - What's My Line? Video

Ringling Circus Clown

Emmett Leo Kelly as Weary Willie in a bubble bath.

Emmett Leo Kelly as Weary Willie in a bubble bath.

Emmett Kelly, Sr.

  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    He was born on December 9, 1898 - and died on March 28, 1979. He was an American circus hobo clown created during the Great Depression.

Weary Willie

Vintage collectible doll photo I took in an antique store

Vintage collectible doll photo I took in an antique store

The Son of Emmett Kelly

Photo: 1964 New York World's Fair

Photo: 1964 New York World's Fair

Emmett Kelly, Jr.

  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The son of Emmet Kelly, also played the character while making the magic occur on center stage. He was loved by many fans, but was never the same as his beloved Dad.

The Day The Sad Clown Smiled Video

The Most Famous Hobo Clown

The hobo clown never retired. Emmett Kelly Senior took off the persona of Weary Willie for the last time in 1956 and did not go back into character again. The world was left with sweet memories of the antics of W.W., but there was a sense of loss to those in the audience who had hopeful hearts of just one more performance. I am sure many people still saw him in their memories as other performers' acts went uninterrupted and embellished by the appearance of Willie.

Kelly Senior never spoke a single word when he was in character. The two did share that smile once though, when W.W. received the news over the phone that his daughter, Stasia, was born. Then, his smile beamed right through Willie's sad face for all the world to see as one well timed picture was taken of that magical moment in 1955.

Clown Clipart

The day the sad faced clown smiles while in costume.

The day the sad faced clown smiles while in costume.

Clown Doll Photo

Photo taken in an antique shop.

Photo taken in an antique shop.

The Most Famous Circus Performer

Emmett Leo Kelly: Three circus clowns drinking coffee.

Emmett Leo Kelly: Three circus clowns drinking coffee.

One Quiz Question

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How did Emmet Kelly, Sr begin his circus career?
    • As a trapeze artist.
    • As a clown.

Answer Key

  1. As a trapeze artist.

© 2014 Susie Lehto

Fans Guest Book

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on December 19, 2016:

Peggy, the way of the world has always been somewhat crazy to me. Secular humanism is not my cup of tea, they seem to want to take all the fun stuff away, like liberty and freedom, and anything to produces joy and laughter. - Best to know the Lords!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 29, 2016:

Isn't it a shame that some crooks are now using clown costumes to do their evil deeds. Some areas are even banning those costumes from being sold. The Ronald MacDonald clown has even temporarily been retired from service. Crazy world! I would rather think of clowns as jovial people entertaining others just like an Emmet Kelly.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on July 29, 2016:

Peggy, good to see you again, thank you for sharing. We are getting to enjoy some very nice summer days, hopefully those hot days are gone, I like it on the cooler side. - Kudos!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 14, 2016:

Hi Susie,

Sharing this wonderful article of yours again. Hope you are enjoying your spring and soon to be summer months ahead. It is sizzling right now in Houston and so humid after all the flooding rains we have suffered. Thank heavens for AC!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on May 08, 2016:

Thank you, Au fait. I am enjoying Mother's Day and all is well with my soul. Blessings to you!

C E Clark from North Texas on April 16, 2016:

Came back to review this well written informative article again. Hope all is well with you . . .

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 08, 2015:

Sandy, I'm glad to see you stopped by this hub again. Its a favorite of mine to come to. Hope you are having a fun and happy day! - Kudos!

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on October 31, 2015:

Visited here before. But still enjoy seeing the Emmett Kelly dolls.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on August 20, 2015:

Thank you, Suzanne. The sad clown character was something everyone could relate with during the great depression era. Emmet was a genius to create this image.

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on August 15, 2015:

Weary Willie does indeed look like a genuinely sad clown. Still, I'd rather have him on my shelf than Stephen King's IT or other clown types! The black and white photos of Emmet Kelly and his son are great - they make you get a sense of the times and the photographer was really talented. I can see why Emmet was the original though - with that upside down smile!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on June 18, 2015:

Au fait, yes Weary Willie is a trip down memory lane for many of us baby boomers. Thank you for visiting.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on June 18, 2015:

John, thank you for sharing that. I would love to see your collection.

john on June 17, 2015:

i have been a collector of emmett kelly figurines for a long time my mother got me started with " the thinker" but was a fan of emmett kelly long before my collection got started. i now have 35 pieces in my cabinet. i have never seen the willie doll. i just picked up a emmett doll at a garage sale and cant seem to find it anywhere to know what it is and there are no markings on it but the face is emmett thank you for your article

C E Clark from North Texas on June 15, 2015:

A great trip down memory lane for many people, and a great history lesson for the rest of us. Well done!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on March 19, 2015:

Patrica, Willie was a clown I looked forward to seeing too. I was not a fan of all clowns either.

Thank you for visiting, you have a way of brightening my days.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 18, 2015:

He was an amazing performer and one of the ONLY clowns I have ever really wanted to watch. I really was not a fan of them at all.

Great little photos Thanks for sharing

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on March 14, 2015:

Willie the clown alone smiled once, it was his character to be sad. Kelly the actor was a happy man in real life and loved life.

Thank you, Elsie.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on March 13, 2015:

Very interesting article. I haven't been a fan of clowns as a matter of a fact I have never been to a circus, Sad.

I have never heard of Weary Willie, but I feel sorry for that poor clown only one smile seen in life, poor guy.

Laughter and lots of smiles keeps a body healthy and happy.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on January 14, 2015:

I really appreciate your nice comment, coming from a fan of Emmett Kelly.

Thank you, Au fait!

C E Clark from North Texas on January 13, 2015:

Emmett Kelley is probably the most famous of clowns and I've been reading about him since I was a child. You've written a great tribute to him and your photos are amazing!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on December 20, 2014:

Peggy, actually the Willie doll was not for sale in the shop, but maybe someday it will be. Thank you so much for sharing this hub. Muah!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on December 20, 2014:

Yes, Red Skelton will always be remembered in history, too. I love watching those rodeo clowns, that indeed must be a dangerous job.

Thank you, dahoglund.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 19, 2014:

This is such a wonderful article with great photos. Glad you got photos of it in an antique shop. Do you remember what they were asking regarding a price? I would imagine it was quite expensive. Sharing once again! Wishing you a very happy holidays and upcoming new year.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on December 18, 2014:

Weary Willy is new to me but a sad clown is, I think, somewhat classic. I have not followed clowns much, except for the movie clown, Red Skelton. (don't recall the correct spelling). My father much admired rodeo clowns as he claimed they had the most dangerous job in the show.Voted up, beautiful and sharing.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on December 09, 2014:

Angeline, I got excited when I saw this clown doll in an antique shop. Instead of buying, I go photos of it.

Thank you!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 09, 2014:

wow, i never knew of this clown, first time i read about it

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 11, 2014:

Jodah, thank you for taking a like at the icon behind the dolls.

Have a blessed day!

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on November 11, 2014:

Interesting hub. I think I have seen old footage of Emmet Kelly before and his sad Weary Willy character, but not the dolls. As you say he is an American icon. Thank you for sharing this it was very informative.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 09, 2014:

Nell, good to see your comment. I think Willie is an adorable collectible doll. It would be fun to own one to entertain the grandchildren with.

Thank you!

Nell Rose from England on November 09, 2014:

I have never seen him before but what a great character! I watched a bit of the video with him in, lol! how lovely they have made dolls of him, thanks, I learned something new!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 08, 2014:

Marlene, I am glad that I have been able to introduce you and others to this clown doll. Thank you for visiting, that is appreciated.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on November 07, 2014:

This was interesting. To be honest, I had not heard of Emmett Kelly or this particular clown before now. What a fascinating doll.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 05, 2014:

Rolly, it is a trip down memory lane reading your comment. Thank you, I do enjoy that, and good "clean humor" and laughs. Those were the days my friend, as the old song gores. - Stay blessed!

Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on November 05, 2014:

Hi colorfulone... thanks for the trip back down memory lane and revisiting something of my youth. We did have some special times. I think for me as well was the Red Skeleton show and "Freddie the Freeloader." Good, clean humour where no one was ever hurt and all we did was laugh and love the character. Tanks for the journey through your words...

Hugs and Blessings

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 04, 2014:

Audrey, thank you for the blessings. I am glad you got to learn a little about Weary Willie right here on HubPages. Your lovely comment it much appreciated.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 04, 2014:

Karen, I got goose bumps when I watched that video and found out that Emmitt Kelly's daughter got to meet the photographer of that very special photo of when the sad clown broke character and smiled. That was a divine appointment, there is no other explanation, for me.

Thank you!

Karen from U.S. on November 03, 2014:

This was so much fun to read. He was a little before my time, but I remember reading about Emmet Kelly / Weary Willie. I also watched the two videos you included here and they were both great. How amazing that the daughter ended up sitting next to the guy who photographed "Weary Willie" smiling.

Audrey Selig from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on November 03, 2014:

Susie I never knew about Willie, but like the sad faced clown. He kind of grows on you the longer you look at him. I am surprised I never heard of him, and appreciate your photos and his story. Thanks for the fan mail and follow. It is fun to meet people in the forum. Blessings Audrey

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on November 03, 2014:

Shyron, that must be a real keepsake that you have.

Thank you!

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on November 02, 2014:

Susie, this is interesting, I never knew these about Willie. I have one Willie that is carved out of wood.

Have a Blessed day.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on October 14, 2014:

Writer Fox, thank you for such an excellent comment. I totally agree with you 100%. Looking at that sad faced clown stirs feelings in me.

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on October 13, 2014:

I think Weary Willie was just what the country needed during the Great Depression and that is why he became a national icon then. The character has an enduring quality which exudes sympathy even now, almost one hundred years later. What an interesting subject to write about! Voted up.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on October 06, 2014:

Dianna, I am so glad that your sister has had the privilege to collect some of these clown dolls. Thank you for coming by teaches12345, it is appreciated.

Dianna Mendez on October 06, 2014:

My sister had a great collection of Emmet Kelly's clowns. I will have to check and see if she has this one. I'm sure she does as it looks like it is the one to have above all. I enjoyed your share on this collection.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on October 01, 2014:

Mary, great to see your smile. Thanks for coming by, aesta1.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 30, 2014:

I love vintage dolls and I am happy to know Emmet Kelly and Weary Willie.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 25, 2014:

I had not thought of that, but I can see why the sad Weary Willie clown would remind you of Keaton. You had me looking online for that. Thanks for coming by.

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on September 25, 2014:

I never heard about Emmet Kelly. With this sad face he reminds me of Buster Keaton. Thanks for introducing him!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 25, 2014:

CatherineGiordano, thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on September 24, 2014:

I wrote an article about collecting stuff (it made HOTD) and I am having fun learning about all the interesting things people collect. I thought your hub was so well done.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 23, 2014:

Good morning, Janis. Thank you for the nice compliment on the photos. I do love my little Canon PowerShot camera.

Janis from California on September 22, 2014:

Susie,

I have never seen this doll before. You've got some great photographs of him.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 21, 2014:

I am very pleased to see you here, takkhisa. Thank you for visiting my Emmett Kelly hub.

Takkhis on September 20, 2014:

Hi Susie, after a long time I just read your article! I love it and to be honest I had never heard of Weary Willie before. It is great that I have explored it here. Thank you.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 19, 2014:

Nancy, good to see you. I think its cute that you use to want to be a clown. It seems like it would be a fun career for many. Thank you, OhMe!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 18, 2014:

I really enjoyed this. I always liked Emmett Kelly and in fact, I wanted to be a clown when I grew up.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 18, 2014:

Peg, thank you for all the shares and up-votes on the Weary Willie doll. I was not into dolls as a young girl, but this one would have charmed me then, too.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 18, 2014:

When I was young I wanted to go to clown school and be like Emmett Kelley but I couldn't get anyone to take me seriously. Guess it's a good thing.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 18, 2014:

I absolutely loved this hub of yours! Both videos were fun and I remember watching "What's My Line?" when it was on TV many decades ago. I did not even know they had made a doll that looked like Emmet Kelly dressed as Weary Willie. All the up votes + sharing by tweeting, G+, pinning and HP followers. What a doll! I never liked playing with dolls when I was young but one like this would bring a smile to just about anyone's face!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 18, 2014:

Hi, Sylvestermouse. Yes, Emmett Kelly had a great idea when he created the hobo clown during the depression years. Thanks for coming by.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on September 17, 2014:

How very interesting! I guess I never really considered how the hobo clown originated. Really cute doll! Thanks for he introduction.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 17, 2014:

Dora, you are more than welcome. I do think Weary Willie dolls are "adorable". Thank you!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 17, 2014:

Thanks for the introduction to Emmet Kelly and Weary Willie. The doll seems adorable.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 16, 2014:

The sad clown face makes for a very cute doll. Thanks, Sandy!

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on September 16, 2014:

This is really cool. I did not know that there were Weary Willie dolls.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 16, 2014:

Sparrowlet, thank you for coming by to visit Weary Willie.

Katharine L Sparrow from Massachusetts, USA on September 15, 2014:

Awww, this does bring back memories! My cousin was crazy for clowns and Weary Willie was his favorite! Thanks for the nostalgic hub!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 11, 2014:

I get a nostalgic feeling looking at the doll. If I had one of these, it would be where I could see it everyday. Thanks for visiting Willie, DealForALiving!

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 11, 2014:

Weary Willie sure did pull at our heart stings with that sad hobo clown character. Thanks for coming by, Fay.

Nick Deal from Earth on September 11, 2014:

Oh, I remember seeing this! Such an expressive doll filled with emotions.

Fay Favored from USA on September 10, 2014:

I don't know much about this personality, but I do remember that it made me sad to watch him. So I guess he did his job well.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 10, 2014:

Thank you, Homeplace Series. It is a pleasure to have you stop by.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on September 10, 2014:

What fun! Thanks for sharing... ;-)

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 10, 2014:

Billy, (billybuc) thank you. Yes indeed, Emmet Kelly was a great performer.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 10, 2014:

I was reminded of Emmet Kelly over the years, because of that Weary Willie figurine my auntie had displayed. Thank you, Pawpawwrites.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 10, 2014:

I remember him well, which will give you some idea how old I am. Great performer....and interesting that there are collectible dolls of him.

Jim from Kansas on September 10, 2014:

I hadn't heard of him in years. What a face.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 09, 2014:

That sad looking clown face does it for me, Barb. It worked so well with Weary Willie's acts that I remember seeing on TV.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on September 09, 2014:

I haven't heard of Emmet Kelly or Weary Willie. You have my interest peeked in this doll too; love the sad look - it's very appealing in an odd way

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 09, 2014:

Thank you, Sylvia. You are still an angel. :)

Sylvia from Corpus Christi, Texas on September 09, 2014:

What a treat to remember Emmet Kelly, Sr. ~ he was truly a beloved American icon. Thanks for a lovely trip down memory lane.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 09, 2014:

Hi Liz and thank you. Weary Willie was an American icon, so it is understandable that you had not seen or heard of this sad clown.

Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on September 09, 2014:

I haven't come across Weary Willie before. I think he is rather charming.

Susie Lehto (author) from Minnesota on September 09, 2014:

The days of black and white television were created for Weary Willie's spotlight sweeping. Thanks Dave.

David Stone from New York City on September 09, 2014:

Those days aren't as far away as they seem now. No way a clown would be a household name like Kelly was.