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Vince Barnett

Vince Barnett, 1938
Personal information
Birth dateJuly 4, 1902
Place of birthPittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Date of deathAugust 10, 1977(age 75)
Death placeEncino, California
SpouseGenevieve Meier (21 March 1929 - 12 March 1955)

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Vince Barnett (4 July 1902 10 August 1977) was an American film actor. He appeared on stage originally before appearing in over 180 films between 1930 and 1975.

He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the son of Luke Barnett, a well-known comedian who specialized in insulting and pulling practical jokes on his audiences (Luke's professional nickname was "Old Man Ribber" and "the King of Ribbing".) Vince remained in the family business by hiring himself out to Hollywood parties, where he would insult the guests in a thick German accent, spill the soup and drop the trays-all to the great delight of hosts who enjoyed watching their friends squirm and mutter "Who hired that jerk?" The diminutive, chrome-domed Barnett also appeared in the 1926 edition of Earl Carroll's Vanities. He began appearing in films in 1930, playing hundreds of comedy bits and supporting parts until retiring in 1975. Among Vince Barnett's more sizeable screen roles was the moronic, illiterate gangster "secretary" in Scarface (1931).

Former vaudevillian, who acquired a solid reputation as a practical joker and master of insult, second only to the great Groucho Marx. Celebrity hosts would often hire Vince to perform gags and put-on jokes at their lavish parties, where he would insult the guests and create mayhem in his wake. He often posed as heavily-accented journalists with names like 'Timothy Glutzspiegel'. Among the many victims of his pranks were such luminaries as Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford and the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen.

After studying at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Vince, who was an avid amateur pilot, flew mail planes for a couple of years before making his stage debut with 'Earl Carroll's Vanities' in 1926. The following year, he acted on Broadway in 'George White's Scandals'. Movie roles soon followed.

From 1930, Vince appeared, usually as comedy relief, in films and on television in a career spanning 45 years. Among his best-regarded early roles were 'Scarface' (1932,as a dumb gangster), 'The Big Cage' (1933), 'Thirty Day Princess' (1934) and, in a perfectly-suited Runyonesque part, 'Princess O'Hara' (1935). In later years, Vince often relinquished his comedy image and was seen in innumerable small roles, often as careworn little men, undertakers, janitors, bartenders and drunks in pictures ranging from films noir ('The Killers',1946) to westerns ('Springfield Rifle',1952).

In one of his last public appearances, Vince showcased his unique brand of humour with a monologue, delivered at Madison Square Garden in the vaudeville revue 'The Big Show of 1936'. Barnett died in Encino, California August 10, 1977.

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