Louis Quinn: Radio and Racetracks

Baby Boomers will certainly have a very different perspective than I do on character actor Louis Quinn (Louis Frakt, 1915-1988). They’re going to remember him from particular roles — one, in particular — whereas his origins intrigue me even more.

Quinn grew up in Los Angeles and studied journalism at the University of New Mexico. In the late ’30s he became a gagwriter for Milton Berle’s radio show, and was hired by Bryan Foy as a script doctor at Warner Brothers. During World War Two he wrote training films for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Then he returned to working for Berle, and continued in that capacity when he moved into television on Texaco Star Theatre. In the early ’50s he also got his own local radio programs, including one on 1010 WINS in New York. This experience as a radio personality gave the experience he need to begin going before the camera himself. A bit role as a cabbie in There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) is his first screen credit.

In 1958 he was cast a regular on 77 Sunset Strip, supporting Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Roger Smith (later the husband and manager of Ann-Margret) and Edd “Kookie” Byrnes. Quinn’s character was Roscoe, a funny racetrack tout, bookie, and stool pigeon who fed tips to the private eyes who were the main characters. Quinn was on the show through 1963, and his relatively high profile translated to supporting parts in movies like Al Capone (1959), Ocean’s 11 (1960), and Gypsy (1962).

After the show went off the air, Quinn was a frequent TV guest star, on such shows as Gilligan’s Island, Batman, Get Smart, The Red Skelton Hour, The Monkees, Honey West, Here’s Lucy, Barney Miller, Fantasy Island, and dozens of others. He continued to act in films as well, quite a crazy grab-bag of them, For Those Who Think Young (1964), The Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966), Birds Do it (1966) with Soupy Sales, Unholy Rollers (1972), Superchick (1973), Linda Lovelace for President (1975), Keep Off My Grass! (1975) with Mickey Dolenz, All the President’s Men (1976), and the Robert Burge comedy Vasectomy: A Delicate Matter (1986) starring Paul Sorvino.

Quinn also has a part in the pilot for The Pickle Brothers’ sitcom (1966), about which more very shortly!

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