The Ralph Manza Centennial

We spotted (and recognized) character actor and bit player Ralph Manza (1921-2000) in a Seinfeld re-run recently and, upon looking him up, learned that today would have been his 100th birthday.

Manza was one of those guys who was everywhere and nowhere. Those dancing eyebrows, thin lips, and merry eyes were instantly recognizable. Had they not been, his nearly 200 screen credits might have hammered the image home. A medic in the army during World War II, the San Francisco native was reassigned to an entertainment division and he remained in show business after the war. He began acting in television regularly in 1954. He was a regular on the shows The D.A.’s Man (1959), Banacek (1972-74), A.E.S. Hudson Street (1978, a creation of Barney Miller’s Danny Arnold — Manza had previously appeared on Barney Miller seven times as well as the Barney Miller spin-off Fish), Mama Malone (1984), Newhart (1985-90), and several soap operas, and made memorable guest appearances on shows like Batman, Get Smart, The Odd Couple, Soap, Benson, etc etc.

Manza was especially in demand in spoof movies in the 1970s, but he worked in all genres. His films included The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), That Touch of Mink (1962), Kisses for My President (1964), What Did You Do in the War Daddy? (1966), The Love Machine (1971), Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974, as an actor playing Hitler in the crazy scene at the end), The Wild Party (1975), Carl Reiner’s The One and Only (1978), Disney’s The Cat from Outer Space (1978) and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), Love at First Bite (1979), Dom Deluise’s Fatso (1980), The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), Dave (1993), Get Shorty (1995), and Godzilla (1998). He worked right up until until his death in 2000.

For more on classic comedy film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.