Jack La Rue: Went West

Our main interest in actor Jack La Rue (Gaspare Biondolillo, 1902-1984) is in his association with Mae West. He was in Mae’s historic Broadway production Diamond LIl (1928) which later became the 1933 film She Done Him Wrong, and had a part in the film-within-the-film in her Go West, Young Man (1936). See photo above. He’s her type, right? All men were her type, but he was her particular type. Same type as Joseph Calleia, who played the Masked Bandit in My Little Chickadee (1940). Mae was also close pals with George Raft, who replaced La Rue in Scarface when Howard Hawks decided La Rue wasn’t working out opposite Paul Muni (too tall, among other things). La Rue was a Ricardo Cortez type –swarthy, sleek, with sleepy, insinuating bedroom eyes. He looked “bad”, and was often cast as gangsters and other villains. He was, btw, no relation to western star Lash La Rue.

La Rue’s father, a Sicilian immigrant, varrnished pianos for a living. The good looking, talented and lucky Jack got a job with Otis Skinner’s company fresh out of high school. He was only 21 when cast in his first Broadway play The Crooked Square (1923) andwas to tread the Broadway boards a half dozen more times through the end of the decade, notably in the first stage version of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1930). He was to appear in the 1932 screen version as well, although in a different role, against type, as a priest. La Rue amassed nearly 150 credits over his screen career, including roles in The Story of Temple Drake (1933), Under the Pampas Moon (1935), Strike Me Pink (1936), Captains Courageous (1937), The Sea Hawk (1940), Ringside Maisie (1941), Abbott and Costello’s Pardon My Sarong (1942), Road to Utopia (1945), My Favorite Brunette (1947), Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957), and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). His last decently sized role was in the independent Paesano: A Voice in the Night (1975) with Aldo Ray, Edy Williams, Vito Scotti, Deanna Martin, and Mike Mazurki.

For three dozen more posts related to Mae West, go here.