Vince Barnett, 1938
July 4, 1902|
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||August 10, 1977
Encino, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Genevieve Meier (1929-1955)
Kit Barnett (his death)
Vince Barnett (July 4, 1902 – August 10, 1977) was an American film actor. He appeared on stage originally before appearing in more than 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 his more sizable screen roles was the moronic, illiterate gangster "secretary" in Scarface.
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'. Film 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, apart from Scarface, were 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.
- All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) (uncredited)
- Scratch-As-Catch-Can (1931)
- Scarface (1932)
- The Death Kiss (1932)
- The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)
- The Ninth Guest (1934)
- Thirty-Day Princess (1934)
- Now I'll Tell (1934)
- Kansas City Princess (1934)
- Young and Beautiful (1934)
- The Secret Bride (1934)
- Don't Bet on Blondes (1935)
- Riffraff (1936)
- Captain Calamity (1936)
- Yellow Cargo (1936)
- Heroes of the Saddle (1940)
- East Side Kids (1940)
- Seven Sinners (1940)
- Captive Wild Woman (1943)
- High Powered (1944)
- The Falcon's Alibi (1946)
- The Killers as "Charleston" (1946)
- Swell Guy (1946)
- Gas House Kids Go West (1947)
- Carson City (1952)
- Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
- Andy Griffith Show as "Elmo" (1967–1968)
- Mayberry R.F.D. as "Elmo" (1968–1970)
- Summer School Teachers (1974)
- Vince Barnett at the Internet Movie Database
- Vince Barnett at AllMovie
- Vince Barnett at Find a Grave