Loring Smith

Loring B. Smith (November 18, 1890–July 8, 1981) was an American vaudeville, stage, film, radio and television actor, frequently of broadly comic and gregarious characters who enjoyed a 65-year career in every aspect of the entertainment business.

Loring Smith
Loring Smith in Shadow of the Thin Man trailer.jpg
Loring Smith in Shadow of the Thin Man.
BornNovember 18, 1890
Stratford, Connecticut, U.S.[1]
DiedJuly 8, 1981(1981-07-08) (aged 90)
Fairfield, Connecticut, U.S.[1]
NationalityAmerican
OccupationActor
Spouse(s)Natalie Sawyer

A native of Stratford, Connecticut, Smith left doubt as to the year of his birth. Most of the earliest sources list 1890, by the 1940s, it was 1895, and by the 1950s, the year became 1900. He does, however, have vaudeville and theatrical credits reaching back to the 1910s.[citation needed] While he served in the Tank Corps during World War I, he put on shows for soldiers. A booking agent saw him in a show at Camp Upton on Long Island, and that exposure led to his becoming a professional entertainer.[2]

During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, he played hundreds of characters in radio drama, comedy and variety. He also intermittently appeared in films, playing supporting parts in 1941's Keep 'Em Flying, with Abbott and Costello and Shadow of the Thin Man, fourth in the William PowellMyrna Loy series of Nick and Nora Charles mysteries. Over the following twenty-six years he was seen in nine others, including a cameo in Orson Welles' 1958 Touch of Evil as the driver of a car at a police check point, usually playing his patented persona of a blustery, equivocating businessman or politician.

At age 50, he became a Broadway actor, appearing in twelve productions between November 1940 and March 1964. In most of those, he was, as usual, billed as "Senator" or "Mayor".[citation needed] His Broadway debut came in Glamour Preferred (1940).[1] While the majority of his assignments placed him in supporting roles, he was given a co-starring billing in the comedy Be Your Age, with Conrad Nagel. His most memorable Broadway role came nearly three years later when he portrayed Horace Vandergelder in Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker.

Based primarily in New York, Smith frequently appeared on early television programs and was a regular on a live sitcom, The Hartmans, starring the married comic actors and dancers Paul and Grace Hartman, playing supposedly "themselves" as a suburban married couple, beset by various amusing tribulations, including an obnoxious brother-in-law, portrayed by Smith.[3]

He also appeared on the West End stage in London, starring opposite Mary Martin in the original London production of Hello, Dolly!

Smith ended his acting career in the late 1960s, when he was in his late seventies. His final Broadway appearance was in his least successful production, Yves Jamiaque's A Murderer Among Us. Typically, Smith's role was a politician, the "Mayor". He appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone, "The Whole Truth" (January 20, 1961) and the hour-long "I Dream of Genie" (March 21, 1963), playing two more blustering politicians. In "The Whole Truth" he is "Honest Luther Grimbley", a city alderman ready to buy one of used car dealer's Jack Carson's less-than-adequate pieces of merchandise, intending to show his constituents that he is living up to his name by driving such an unprepossessing vehicle. His plans, however, immediately change when Carson, forced by the vehicle to tell the truth, confesses that the haunted Model A will have the veracity-enforcing effect on each of its subsequent owners.

His last acting role was a small part as, appropriately enough, a small-town Southern politician in Otto Preminger's 1967 film Hurry Sundown. He died fourteen years later in Fairfield, Connecticut at the age of 90.

Smith was married to singer Natalie Sawyer,[4] with whom he performed in vaudeville.[2]

FilmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1941 Keep 'Em Flying Major Barstow
1941 Shadow of the Thin Man 'Link' Stephens
1947 Citizen Saint
1948 Close-Up Harry Avery
1952 Pat and Mike Mr. Beminger
1953 The Clown Benjamin Y. 'Goldie' Goldenson
1953 Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki Rodney Kettle
1959 Happy Anniversary Arthur Gans / Grandpa
1963 The Cardinal Cornelius J. Deegan
1967 Hurry Sundown Thomas Elwell

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c "Loring Smith". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on February 15, 2020. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Gardiner, John (April 16, 1955). "Renowned Actor Scores Success in Gay Comedy". The Windsor Star. Canada, Ontario, Windsor. p. 17. Retrieved February 14, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 438. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  4. ^ Adams, Marjory (February 20, 1955). "Strangers Take Loring Smith for Tycoon, Never an Actor". The Boston Globe. Massachusetts, Boston. p. 58-A. Retrieved February 14, 2020.

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