Familiar Faces #9: Stooges, Chorus Lines, and Ethelreda Leopold!

She may not have been as prolific as Hollywood’s “Queen of the Extras” Bess Flowers, but once you’ve discovered Ethelreda Leopold, you’ll find the blonde beauty popping up everywhere, mainly in uncredited roles. Three Stooges fans certainly know of her work, as she appeared in eleven of their Columbia shorts, but there’s a whole lot more Ethelreda out there in classic film land!

Ethelreda (3rd from right) in 1934’s “Dames”

The girl with the unique name (‘Ethelreda’ is from Olde English, meaning ‘of noble strength’) was born in Chicago on July 7, 1914. She was working as a teenage model, and doing very well, when she was discovered by a Warner Brothers talent scout and brought out to Hollywood. Ethelreda made her debut as one of the chorus girls in Busby Berkeley’s 1934 extravaganza DAMES, and became one of Busby’s busiest girls. She can be seen in the chorus in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935, STAGE STRUCK, VARSITY SHOW, HOLLYWOOD HOTEL, SWEETHEARTS, and GOLD DIGGERS OF PARIS.

The Busby Berkeley Girls in “Gold Diggers of 1935”

The latter film found Ethelreda voted “Most Popular” Berkeley Girl (out of 109!), and the studio sent her on a promotional tour that included a stop in New York, where the writer H. Allen Smith made a nervous attempt to take her measurements (it’s a funny story and can be found by following this link!).

Grooming the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

Ethelreda can be spotted in many classic films of the day, mostly uncredited: MY MAN GODFREY, MARKED WOMAN, THE WIZARD OF OZ (helping groom   Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion!), DANCING CO-ED, THE RAGE OF PARIS, CITY FOR CONQUEST, HE STAYED FOR BREAKFAST, ANGELS OVER BROADWAY, BALL OF FIRE, SABOTEUR , WORDS AND MUSIC, ALL ABOUT EVE, and many more. She had a bigger role (billed as ‘Ethel’ Leopold) in the 1938 exploitation film RACE SUICIDE, dealing with an illegal abortion racket and produced by Willis Kent, who made a bunch of these type of things (THE PACE THAT KILLS, THE ROAD TO RUIN, SMASHING THE VICE TRUST, CONFESSIONS OF A VICE BARON, and the immortal COCAINE FIENDS!).

Taking dictation in Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” (1940)

Besides choruses and background beauty, Ethelreda made her mark in comedy, working with all the great comedians, including Abbott & Costello Charlie Chaplin (THE GREAT DICTATOR), Andy Clyde, W.C. Fields (YOU CAN’T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN), Bob Hope , Harry Langdon, Laurel & Hardy The Marx Brothers (A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA), Olsen & Johnson (HELLZAPOPPIN’, CRAZY HOUSE), and The Ritz Brothers . But it’s her work with The Three Stooges she’s fondly remembered for by Knuckleheads everywhere! Her first was 1936’s A PAIN IN THE PULLMAN, where she’s one of the chorus girls on a train kept awake by The Stooges’ madcap antics.

With Curly Howard in “Wee Wee Monsieur” (1938)

In HALF SHOT SHOOTERS (’36) she’s just a (pretty) face in the crowd, and  GOOFS AND SADDLES (1937) finds Ethelreda as a saloon girl out West, encountering Wild Bill Hiccup (Moe), Just Plain Bill (Larry), and Buffalo Billious (Curly). In BACK TO THE WOODS (’37) she’s a Colonial maiden, WEE WEE MONSIEUR (1938) casts her as a harem girl, CALLING ALL CURS (1939) a nurse to the boy’s wacky veterinarians, NUTTY BUT NICE (1940) as a waitress, ALL THE WORLD’S A STOOGE (1941) a party guest (with the boys hired to dress and act like children – not a stretch!), MATRI-PHONY (1942) she’s Miss Syracuse in Ancient Rome.

Let the pies fly! “In the Sweet Pie and Pie” (1941)

Her two biggest Stooge appearences are among the team’s best shorts. IN THE SWEET PIE AND PIE (1941) has Ethereda as Baska, who along with her sisters Tiska (Dorothy Appleby) and Taska (Mary Ainslee) get married to three condemned convicts in order to claim an inheritance. The plan backfires when the boys are pardoned, and the girls do whatever it takes to get divorced – namely insisting they become high society gentlemen! The craziness culminates in a wild pie fight (The Stooges’ first!) and Ethelreda here was more than willing to take one for the team – a pie, that is! G.I. WANNA HOME (1946) finds The Stooges returning from WWII to their sweeties Bessie (Doris Houck), Tessie (Judy Malcolm), and Jessie (Ethelreda) and attempting to build a home for them all to live in, with the expected disastrous results!

A more mature but still beautiful Ethelreda Leopold

After a 1953 appearance on TV’s THE ABBOTT & COSTELLO SHOW, Ethelreda disappeared from screens both large and small. She seems to have slipped into a life a domesticity with husband Joseph Pine, a hotel executive, and son Victor. It wasn’t until ten years later that she returned to acting – with a vengeance! Ethelreda’s list of TV credits reads like a Television Hall of Fame: HAZEL, BONANZA, BATMAN , THE MONKEES , THAT GIRL, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW , IT TAKES A THIEF, BEWITCHED, MARY TYLER MOORE , THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (4 episodes), RHODA, THE A-TEAM, HART TO HART, DYNASTY (6 episodes). Older but still attractive, Ethelreda graced many a film during this time as well: THE KILLERS (Ronald Reagan’s last movie), TWO ON A GUILLOTINE , HARUM SCARUM, MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS, THE OSCAR, I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS, HELLFIGHTERS, MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN . Wherever there was a need for a sophisticated older woman, Ethelreda was there!

Ethelreda meets Al & Peg Bundy on “Married With Children”

Her last acting credit was an episode of MARRIED WITH CHILDREN in 1989, with Al Bundy and his lowbrow brood having a night out at a swanky restaurant! A year later, Ethelreda made a personal appearance as guest of honor at a Three Stooges Convention in Philadelphia, where she was a big hit with fandom and treated like a star. She died of pneumonia in 1998, but her legacy lives on; just watch any classic movie or TV show, and there’s a good chance Ethelreda Leopold will pop up! I don’t even think IMDB has all her complete credits listed, so keep a sharp eye out for that beautiful young blonde or elegant older woman in the background. Now that you know about Ethelreda, happy hunting!

From 1940’s “Angels Over Broadway”

 

Familiar Faces #6: Jack Norton, Hollywood’s Favorite Souse

For fifteen years, whenever Hollywood producers needed a drunk, they called Jack Norton. The perpetually inebriated man with the funny moustache made a career out of playing drunken barflies, mostly in uncredited bit parts. Everyone knew they were in for a good laugh when Jack, the ultimate Familiar Face, staggered onscreen. In real life, Jack Norton was a teatottler who never touched the stuff, and learned to “play drunk” by following tipsy people around and copying their mannerisms. Now that’s dedication to your craft!

Jack in 1934’s “A Duke for a Day”

Jack Norton was born in Brooklyn in 1882, and began his show biz career in vaudeville. He soon moved to Broadway, starring in Earl Carroll’s Vanities. Coming to Hollywood in 1934, Jack played his first lush in FINISHING SCHOOL, an early effort for Frances Dee and Ginger Rogers. After that, his specialty would be in constant demand, though he did do other, non-alcoholic roles, such as reporters in films like ALIBI IKE , PAGE MISS GLORY, and AFTER THE THIN MAN.

with William Demarest in Preston Sturges’ “The Palm Beach Story” (1942)

Comical drunks became his bread and butter though, and Jack had a long and prosperous career reeling his way across the screen. He worked with all the comedy greats of the era, including the Ritz Brothers (KENTUCKY MOONSHINE), Bob Hope (GHOST BREAKERS, LOUISIANA PURCHASE, MY FAVORITE SPY), Olsen & Johnson (CRAZY HOUSE, GHOST CATCHERS), The Great Gildersleeve (GILDERSLEEVE ON BROADWAY, GILDERSLEEVE’S GHOST ), Laurel & Hardy (THE BIG NOISE), Jack Benny (THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT), Abbott & Costello (THE NAUGHTY NINETIES), and Danny Kaye (THE KID FROM BROOKLYN). Jack was featured in the first Three Stooges Columbia short WOMEN HATERS, and again in RHYTHM AND WEEP and MALACE IN THE PALACE.

Jack (in pith helmet) as director A. Pismo Clam in “The Bank Dick” (1940)

Classic comedy fans cherish best his turn as drunken movie director A. Pismo Clam in W.C. Fields’ THE BANK DICK , so bombed the producers hire Fields (as Egbert Souse’, not exactly the model of sobriety himself!) to replace him! Jack was also a favorite of Preston Sturges, who used him as part of his stock company in THE PALM BEACH STORY, MIRACLE OF MORGAN’S CREEK, HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, and THE SIN OF HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK (Harold Lloyd’s failed comeback attempt).

Jack with Billy DeWolfe in 1946’s “Blue Skies”

Jack pops up in movies both classic and no-so classic, adding his particular talent to RUGGLES OF RED GAP, SHE GETS HER MAN, GOLDDIGGERS OF 1937, PICK A STAR, THE GREAT GARRICK, JEZEBEL, THE LONE WOLF SPY HUNT, THE ROARING TWENTIES , THE VILLAIN STILL PURSUED HER, COVER GIRL … the list, like a barfly’s story, goes on and on. Illness forced him to slow down after 1949; he made just a handful of TV appearences before passing away in 1958. Jack Norton was never a major star, but his crocked cameos in so many films are one of the reasons we all love watching classic movies so much. Our eyes light up when he pops up three sheets to the wind, and we smile and say, “Hey, there’s THAT GUY again!”. A Familiar Face indeed, and one of those unsung working actors we all know and love!

Familiar Faces #2: Need a Nasty Nazi? Better Call Kosleck!

Martin Kosleck, that is! The German-born actor was the go-to villain for 40’s casting directors looking for a slimy sieg heiler (and later other foreign menaces). Kosleck was born in 1904, and as a young man studied acting under the legendary Max Reinhardt. He made his mark on the European stage, but his virulent anti-Nazi stance caused him, like many of his artistic compatriots, to flee the oppressive regime, landing in America in 1932.

Kosleck (in white suit) as Joseph Goebbels in 1939’s Confessions of a Nazi Spy

Kosleck made his stateside film debut as an uncredited dance instructor in FASHIONS OF 1934. Hollywood didn’t exactly break his door down with offers, so he headed east and began appearing on Broadway. Director Anatole Litvak caught Kosleck onstage in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, and offered him a part in his new picture. CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939) was Tinseltown’s first feature to tackle the Nazi threat head-on, with Edward G. Robinson playing an FBI agent investigating German Bundt activity in America. Kosleck was given the role of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, a role he’d return to again in THE HITLER GANG (1944), HITLER (1962), and 1954’s TV production “The Last Days of Hitler” on MOTOROLA TELEVISION THEATER.

Martin menaces Dana Andrews in Berlin Correspondent

Unlike many German ex-pats of the era, Kosleck took delight in portraying evil Nazis, exposing their heinous ways onscreen as a sort of catharsis, and spitting in the face of their totalitarian authority.  He depicted both generals and henchmen in films like ALL THROUGH THE  NIGHT, BERLIN CORRESPONDENT, NAZI AGENT, and BOMBER’S MOON. In Hitchcock’s FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, he plays a crucial role as the tramp in the windmill whose presence flummoxes hero Joel McCrea. Koselck also menaced movie detectives Nick Carter (NICK CARTER, MASTER DETECTIVE), Philo Vance (CALLING PHILO VANCE), and even Sherlock Holmes himself in PURSUIT TO ALGIERS, playing the knife-throwing circus performer Mirko, in reality a Russian agent.

With “Creeper” Rondo Hatton in House of Horrors

Kosleck is also remembered for his classic horror roles. 1944’s THE MUMMY’S CURSE finds him as Ragheb, slimy henchman of Dr. Ilor Zandaab (Peter Coe), the latest high priest in charge of undead Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr). His most famous horror movie is by far 1944’s HOUSE OF HORRORS, where Kosleck stars as mad sculpter Marcel DeLarge, a real looney-tune who uses newfound friend “The Creeper” (Rondo Hatton!) to dispatch of his critics. He plays a mad scientist who creates a race of ravenous monsters in the 1964 cult classic THE FLESH EATERS. Other horror-related Kosleck films include THE MAD DOCTOR, SHE-WOLF OF LONDON, THE FROZEN GHOST, and MST3K favorite AGENT FOR H.A.R.M.

Kosleck vs Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 on an episode of Get Smart

Television proved a meaty medium for Kosleck’s talents as well. He starred in a 1953 adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” for MONODRAMA THEATER. In the 1962 THRILLER episode “Waxworks”, based on Robert Bloch’s short story, he’s on the side of goodness(!) as an inspector on the trail of a murderous wax museum owner (Oscar Homolka). 1965’s OUTER LIMTS entry “The Brain of Col. Barham” casts him as a surgeon in a riff on DONOVAN’S BRAIN. 1965 also found Kosleck as an ersatz bloodsucker in the GET SMART episode “Weekend Vampire”. NIGHT GALLERY’s 1971 “The Devil is Not Mocked” has him returning to Nazi Germany against a fearsome foe… Dracula (Francis Lederer)! Of course, you’ll also spot Kosleck on all the 60’s WWII shows (JERICHO, 12 O’CLOCK HIGH, GARRISON’S GORILLAS), and on BATMAN, THE WILD WILD WEST, THE MAN FROM UNCLE, and even an episode of SANFORD & SON!

A portrait of Marlene Dietrich by Martin Kosleck

Kosleck was also a painter of no small talent whose works appeared at galleries and were purchased by notables like Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich. He made his last film in 1980, THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE before retiring from acting. Martin Kosleck passed away in 1992 at the age of 89, leaving behind a film legacy of performances as one of those actors we just love to hate. His contributions to film and television are still fondly remembered by fans, yet he doesn’t have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Let’s rectify that oversight; Kosleck deserves it!

Kosleck (2nd from left) with the Boys in the Bundt (The Hitler Gang, 1944)

 

 

 

Familiar Faces #1: Hank Worden, Everyone’s Favorite Supporting Cowboy

(You know how, when watching a classic movie or TV episode, you’ll spot someone in a small part and say, “Hey, I know that guy (or gal)? This new series will shine the spotlight on those unsung heroes of the Golden Age, the supporting actors we all know and love!)

There’s no mistaking Hank Worden for anyone else in films. The tall, bald, lanky, soft spoken old codger with a face like a buzzard graced the screen with his presence in 170 features and numerous TV episodes, sometimes uncredited but always recognizable. He was a member in good standing of the John Ford/John Wayne Stock Company, worked with everyone from Howard Hawks and Clint Eastwood to Ma & Pa Kettle and Sonny & Cher, and even starred in a documentary about his life and career. Not bad for an old buzzard!

Hank (right) ties up Tex Ritter in 1938’s “Rollin’ Plains”

Hank didn’t just play cowboys onscreen; he was the real deal. Born in Iowa in 1901 and raised on a ranch in Montana, young Hank Worden learned to ride and rope with the best of them. He put his skills to good use on the rodeo circuit, and before long was playing New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, where he was spotted and signed to appear on Broadway in a new play titled GREEN GROW THE LILACS, along with another newcomer, a young singer named Tex Ritter.

Hank as a Southern soldier in John Ford’s “Fort Apache”

Hollywood soon beckoned, and Hank began appearing in his old costar Tex’s low-budget Westerns, sometimes as a sidekick, sometimes the villain’s henchman. He became a favorite of director Howard Hawks, acting in five of his films, but it’s his collaborations with John Ford and John Wayne for which he’s best remembered. Hank first joined the two in Wayne’s 1939 breakout film STAGECOACH as an extra, but came to the forefront in 1948’s FORT APACHE, showing off his riding skills to good advantage.

Hank’s most famous role – Old Mose in 1956’s “The Searchers”

His biggest and best loved role is undoubtably as Old Mose Harper in Ford’s 1956 classic THE SEARCHERS. Mose is an old tracker who’s a bit touched in the head, and serves as an annoyance to Wayne’s mean, prejudiced Ethan Edwards. Old Mose may be a fool, but he still knows his stuff, for he’s the one who finally locates the renegade Indian Scar (Henry Brandon). All the slightly crazy Mose wants in return is a rocking chair, “just like you promised, Ethan”. The old man gets his wish, sitting happy and content in front of the Jorgensen family’s fireplace. It’s a warm, lighthearted performance in a dark, brutal film, and Worden makes the most of the part.

Hank as The Old Waiter, his last role, on TV’s “Twin Peaks”

Hank Worden continued to work with Wayne in MCLINTOCK!, TRUE GRIT, CHISUM, BIG JAKE, and other movies. He was in demand on television too, making appearances on THE LONE RANGER (six times), BONANZA, WAGON TRAIN (with fellow Ford alumni Ward Bond), RAWHIDE, GUNSMOKE, and most of the Westerns of the day. Sometimes he pops up in the strangest places, like 1978’s SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, as one of the original band members! He’s probably best known to modern audiences for his turn as the Old Waiter in David Lynch’s bizarre TV series TWIN PEAKS, his last acting job before passing away in 1992 at the grand old age of 91. But no matter where you find him, Hank Worden is always a welcome presence whenever he shows up, one of my truly favorite Familiar Faces.

(Do you Dear Readers have any suggestions for future Familiar Faces posts? As always, you’re comments and feedback is most welcome here at Cracked Rear Viewer! Let me know, and I’ll get Cracking!)