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Tuesday, June 25, 2013


JUST IN: Scott MacGillivray Finds Another Showman Turned Actor

Not a big star perhaps, but Gene Roth (nee Eugene Stutenroth) was an actor who emerged from ranks of exhibition to become a mostly malign presence in westerns, comedy shorts, serials, wherever kids learned him by sight for raw deals dispensed to screen heroes. Writer/historian Scott MacGillivray sent Greenbriar the dope in wake of today's Babe Hardy post, along with illustrations shown here (as ever ... Thanks, Scott!). Gene Roth had been with Loew's Brooklyn circuit and before that a Warners man in Philadelphia venues. He had a particular interest in pipe organs as an ongoing feature in theatres he managed, and was proficient at fabrication and installation of same (see his letter at left to The Motion Picture Herald). When war looked imminent, he offered skill toward manufacture of combat planes at Lockheed, and while visiting studio lots, was tabbed for uncanny resemblance to a certain German officer named Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl, the subject of a war actioner then before cameras. From that inauspicious start, Stutenroth was on his way to a career in movies (while also pulling four-hour daily shifts at Lockheed).

There were parts, mostly small, not all of them "speaking," in features like The Hitler Gang, Charlie Chan In The Secret Service, The Spider Woman, Song Of Russia, Canyon Passage, many more. Gene also got lots of work at Columbia, where he'd be an all-purpose heavy. To that he was well suited for stout carriage and imposing size. There were westerns that cast him as "agitator in bar" or "poker player," many of these silent and seated. The Three Stooges used Gene for pomposity's punch bag, a cream pie's likeliest target. Serials yielded more of Roth; as principal menace to Captain Video in that 1953 serial, he'd enrich one of the decade's most perversely enjoyable chapter-plays. A face like Gene's never lacked for work, being an ideal fit to genres that seemed here to stay. That wouldn't be the case, of course, B westerns and serials ultimately drying up, but GR made the segue to TV and kept at it. He died in 1976.

3 Comments:

Blogger Ralph Schiller said...

I saw Gene Roth in a 1964 episode of Rawhide, entitled Incident At Deadhorse with Broderick Crawford, Burgess Meredith, and Chill Wills. Roth had dropped so much weight he was nearly unrecognizable, thin as a rail!

9:13 AM  
OpenID fad41974-de8f-11e2-b632-000bcdcb471e said...

In 1976 I went into a liquor store on the corner of Hollywood and Highland and thought the guy behind the counter looked awfully familiar.
"Are you...Gene Roth?" I asked.
He gruffly ackmowledged he was, but seemed slightly embarrassed to be seen bagging bottles on the Boulevard, so I simply said I'd enjoyed his work over the years and left.
The next week I read he'd been hit and killed by a car at the very same intersection.

2:42 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

What a great anecdote. I'd read that Gene Roth worked at a liquor store in later years, but here is first-hand confirmation. Thanks for supplying it.

2:44 PM  

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