The date January 11th brings to mind an Italian-American actor who worked with MAE WEST.
• • How many knew that the Bronx native Gaspere Biondolillo took the stage-name of "Jack LaRue"? Jack LaRue [birthdate: 3 May 1902] was part of the original Broadway cast when Mae brought her hit "Diamond Lil" to the Royale Theatre in April 1928. Onstage Jack LaRue played Lil's Latin lover Juarez. [Gilbert Roland played that role, under a Russian moniker, in the film version: She Done Him Wrong.]
• • After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Gaspere Biondolillo became a piano tuner. Dropping into a casting office off Broadway one morning, as he made his rounds of keyboard adjustments, he found himself hired to work as a bellhop in a film that featured actor Edmond O'Brien. For three days work, he earned $45, which sparked his interest in more acting assignments. For the next two years, he tried to get film work — — and failed. However, Otis Skinner brought him to the stage in a production of "Blood and Sand"; this was at the Empire Theatre [September — November 1921]. After his Broadway debut, many more plays came his way.
• • In 1933, George Raft was suspended by Paramount Pictures for refusing to take the unsympathetic role of Trigger in a film based on William Faulkner's novel Sanctuary — — renamed "The Story of Temple Drake" with Miriam Hopkins in the film's title role. Paramount cast Jack LaRue instead of George Raft. One job LaRue lost out on, though, was a meaty bit in "Scarface"; Howard Hawks cast LaRue as Guino Rinaldo, the killer protege of Paul Muni (height: 5' 10") — — but then Hawks decided that LaRue (height: 5' 11½") was too tall for this part. Go figure.
• • LaRue went on to make over 100 movies and many TV appearances.
• • On 13 September 1936, Carlo Roncoroni, head of the new Cines studio in Rome, flew to Hollywood to invite Jack LaRue to appear in the title role — — of a film about Christopher Columbus. "According to tentative plans," noted The N.Y. Times, "the picture would be made by an Italian company and Roncoroni believes that, because of its subject, it would be an ideal entering wedge to the American film market."
• • Mae West liked LaRue and fished him into "Go West, Young Man" [released in November 1936]. They also worked together on other theatre projects, for instance, on Mae's theatrical production: Sextette. This comedy — — about a woman with many ex-husbands — — opened on 7 July 1961 at Edgewater Beach Playhouse in Chicago. Jack LaRue played one of her former spouses, an American gangster.
• • In 1973, when the Masquers Club honored Mae West with a "Mae Day" tribute, the ceremony was attended by Jack LaRue, George Raft, Jack Noland, and others.
• • Jack LaRue died in the month of January — — on 11 January 1984 — — of a heart attack at age 82 in Santa Monica, California.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West's co-star • • Jack LaRue • •
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