Fritz Feld: The Guy Who Went Pop

I’ve long wanted to do a post on character actor Fritz Feld (Fritz Feilchenfeld 1900-1993) and am so glad I have the opportunity to squeeze it in today. Feld was mostly a bit player, but an extremely prominent one, best known for his trademark noise, a popping sound he made by tapping his mouth with his flattened hand, not unlike the sound of a champagne bottle being uncorked. He usually played waiters, maitre’ds, desk clerks, and the like, but not always. His pencil thin mustache and German accent (sometimes standing in for French or Belgian or the like) cemented his image as a snooty service employee. I first saw him in a 1975 episode of The Odd Couple, little realizing his turn there was a kind of in-joke; older film fans had seen Feld do this kind of thing for four decades by that point

Fritz was the younger brother of Rudi Feld, who designed posters for cabaret shows in Berlin, then graduated to designing film sets. Fritz followed him into the film business as an actor at age 17. His early films included The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917) and The Golem (1920), among others. By 1928, he was in Hollywood. Rudi followed him there after the Nazis came to power. The Felds were Jewish.

Fritz Feld was in close to 150 films and scores of TV appearances. Some notable ones: Bringing Up Baby (1938), the Marx Brothers’ At the Circus (1939), Idiots Delight (1939), The Mexican Spitfire’s Baby (1941), Maisie Gets Her Man (1942), the 1943 remake of The Phantom of the Opera, Knickerbocker Holiday (1944), George White’s Scandals (1945), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Danny Kaye (1947), If You Knew Susie (1948) with Eddie Cantor, My Favorite Spy (1951) and Casanova’s Big Night (1954) both with Bob Hope, Jail Busters (1955) with the Bowery Boys, numerous Jerry Lewis movies (Don’t Give Up the Ship [1959], The Ladies Man [1961], The Errand Boy [1961], Who’s Minding the Store? [1963], The Patsy [1964], Three on a Couch [1966], Way…Way Out [1966] and Which Way to the Front? [1970]), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park (1967) and The Sunshine Boys (1975), Carl Reiner’s The Comic (1969), several Disney comedies (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes [1969], Herbie Rides Again [1974], The Strongest Man in the World [1975], Freaky Friday [1976] and Herbie Goes Bananas [1980]), Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie (1976) and The History of the World, Part One (1981), and Gene Wilder’s The World’s Greatest Lover (1977) etc etc etc. Plus countless TV shows like I Love Lucy, The Red Skelton Hour, etc etc. His last credit is the 1989 film Homer and Eddie.

Feld’s wife was the actress Virginia Christine who had scores of her own film and television credits between 1943 and 1979, although she became best known for playing Mrs. Olsen in Folger’s Coffee commercials.