Basil Ruysdael

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Basil Ruysdael (July 24, 1878 – October 10, 1960) was an American actor and opera singer.

Early life[edit]

Born as Basil Spaulding Millspaugh in Jersey City, New Jersey, he attended Cornell University from 1898 to 1899 as a special student in mechanical engineering and sang with the Cornell University Glee Club. He sang with the Metropolitan Opera in New York as a bass-baritone from 1910 to 1918. In the World War One era, he was a leading bass at The Met, appearing with such popular opera stars as Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Farrar. Beginning in 1918, he appeared on the New York stage. He moved to California in 1923 to teach voice. His most famous pupil was renowned baritone Lawrence Tibbett.

Film career[edit]

Ruysdael was also a prolific character actor in films. He is probably best known to modern audiences as Detective Hennessey in the first Marx Brothers film The Cocoanuts, a role he created in the stage play. He also appeared in Pinky, The File on Thelma Jordon, Colorado Territory, Broken Arrow, People Will Talk, Carrie, The Violent Men, Blackboard Jungle, The Last Hurrah and The Horse Soldiers. In 1955, Ruysdael played General Andrew Jackson in the ABC miniseries Davy Crockett, broadcast on the Disneyland television series. Ruysdael was cast as Joseph in "The Policeman's Gun", a 1958 episode of Official Detective.[1] In his final television role he appeared on Perry Mason as Henry W. Dameron in the 1959 episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma." His last on-screen role was in The Story of Ruth in 1960. His last film role was One Hundred and One Dalmatians, in which he provided a voice characterization; the film itself was released one year after his death.

Radio career[edit]

Ruysdael narrated the NBC Blue Network series Stones of History which was broadcast in 1934 and 1935. He was the announcer on a syndicated programme for Rexall in 1939 before becoming the commercial spokesman for DuPont on Cavalcade of America on the NBC Blue Network in 1940.

By 1941, he was a pitch-man for Lucky Strike cigarettes, which sponsored several shows including Your Hit Parade, Information Please and The Jack Benny Show. He appeared, transcribed, on the latter show from October 1, 1944 to November 28, 1948 and gave his name near the end of the final commercial. Ruysdael was also the announcer on a 1944 summer replacement show, Mother and Dad, starring Parker Fennelly on CBS, and The Radio Reader's Digest in 1946 on CBS.


Ruysdael died on October 10, 1960 at the age of 82 of complications following surgery in a hospital in Hollywood, California. He was survived by his widow, Kathleen. He was buried in Omaha, Nebraska's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "The Policeman's Gun". Classic TV Archives. Retrieved October 21, 2016. [permanent dead link]

External links[edit]