Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mae West: Slick Wiley

Raise your hand if you remember MAE WEST's Slick Wiley.
• • Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the month of May — — on 17 May 1899 — — Ralf H. Wigger wiggled his name to Ralf Harolde and headed for the Hollywood Hills. Often cast in bit parts, Ralf Harolde racked up nearly 100 motion picture credits between 1920 and 1963.
• • In "I'm No Angel," the slinky five-foot-eleven Easterner played Tira's jealous boyfriend, Slick, who tails her to the hotel where she is romancing a big spender from Dallas. When Slick knocks him unconscious and robs him, he puts Tira in a compromising position.
• • Hal Erickson describes the screen veteran briefly in his excellent All Movie Guide: The best way to physically describe actor Ralf Harolde is to note his striking resemblance to Zeppo Marx. However, Harolde projected a far more sinister image than Marx, beginning with his film debut as the "gentlemanly" villain in Bebe Daniels' "Dixiana" (1930). Often cast as a low-life crook, he played an escaped convict who hid behind his wife and children in "Picture Snatcher" (1933) and the erstwhile kidnapper of little Shirley Temple in "Baby Take a Bow" (1934). He also showed up in such minor roles as a Tribunal prosecutor in "Tale of Two Cities" (1935) and a tuxedoed society gangster in Laurel and Hardy's "Our Relations" (1936).
• • Hal Erickson adds: Ralf Harolde's film career came to a screeching halt when, in 1937, he was involved in a traffic accident that resulted in the death of fellow actor Monroe Owsley. When Ralf re-emerged on screen in 1941, it was clear that the tragedy had taken its toll: Harolde's facial features had taken on a gaunt, haunted look, and his hair had turned completely white. Remaining active until the mid-1950s, Ralf Harolde still had a few good screen characterizations left in him — — most notably the sleazy sanitarium doctor in "Murder My Sweet" (1944).
• • Born in 1901, Monroe Owsley was featured in the Mae West vehicle "Goin' to Town" [1935]; often cast as a debauched young playboy, he played Cleo Borden's "husband-by-convenience" Fletcher Colton. Monroe died on 7 June 1937 from a heart attack suffered during a car accident. He was 36 years old.
• • On 1 November 1974, Ralf Harolde died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California at age 75.

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