Stan Ross: “I’m With You”

I don’t claim that the photo above is REPRESENTATIVE of the career of comical bit player Stan Ross (Abraham Schiller, b. 1926). As an X rated movie, some might regard The Sexpert as a low point, though it was his only starring film (and he reportedly does some silent comedy bits in it. But it does contain the most representative “official” likeness I can find of him on the internet (i.e., not some other blogger’s screen grab). And…I think it may provide some clues about his background, as articles and interviews with the man are fairly nonexistent.

Ross was a tall, bug-eyed Jewish comedian from Brooklyn, who alternated a goofy smile with a stony, scary stare. IMDB informs us that his comic arsenal included an Eddie Cantor impersonation, and that too helps guess at what’s at the bottom of the information gap. I would speculate that he came out of night clubs and Catskills resorts and possibly (given the edgy nature of he later went on to do, maybe the seedy, post-burlesque scene that guys like Lenny Bruce came out of, as he’s just the right age). He likely knew Jackie Gleason from his Brooklyn days, for he first came to public attention as a regular on Gleason’s shows Cavalcade of Stars (1950-52), American Scene Magazine (1962-64) and The Jackie Gleason Show (1967) and he had a small role in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). On Gleason’s show he became known for his catchphrase: “I’m with you!” which invariably provoked roars of laughter from the audience. After Gleason, he was a regular on The Jonathan Winters Show (1967-68), and guested on The Red Skelton Show (1968).

Ross’s movie career began in the late ’40s, with bit parts in Little Miss Broadway (1947), Intrigue (1947), and Campus Sleuth (1948). Probably because of his early TV work he got a bigger role in Ma and Pa Kettle at Home (1954). It’s in the ’70s that his movie work got really interesting. He was still primarily a bit player but there was now a lot of call for freaks and weirdoes and hippies and nuts, and given his outre appreance, his turns, even when brief, are memorable. You can see him in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), and What’s Up, Doc? (1972), for example. He played a mental patient in Hammersmith is Out (1972) with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Peter Ustinov, a turn not unlike the ones plays by Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In the mid 1970s he did two Matt Cimber films, Alias Big Cherry (1975), and The Witch Who Came in from the Sea (1976), playing a character named Jack Dracula in the latter. (I watched it recently, inspiring this post). 1980 was quite a year — he was in Mafia on the Bounty with Joe E. Ross, Jackie Vernon, and Frank DeKova, the ill-fated Wholly Moses, Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, and The Private Eyes starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts. He worked with Peter Bogdanovich again in Mask (1985) as a biker, and was in Hollywood Harry (1985), directed by and starring Robert Forster.

Staring in the mid ’70s he also became a frequent bit player on hit TV shows, inclduing Baretta, Starsky and Hutch, Welcome Back Kotter, Fantasy Island, Cagney and Lacey, Moonlighting, and The Wayans Brothers. His last screen credit was a 2002 obscurity called Surfbroads.

For more on show business history including TV variety, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.