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The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.



(Image courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Gene Roth/Gene Stutenroth

Full name:

Eugene Oliver Edgar Stutenroth

1903 - 1976


Above - from the May 20, 1933 Motion Picture Herald (available at the Internet Archive).


Above - from the November 9, 1940 Motion Picture Herald (available at the Internet Archive).
Eugene Stutenroth was born in Redfield, South Dakota in 1903. From about 1920 through the early 1940s, his career was the theater business and he rose through the ranks to become a manager and exhibitor. He experienced vaudeville, silent films, and the conversion to talking pictures ... and there were many location changes and moves for Gene and family. Tradezines have him as assistant manager on the Orpheum Circuit in Duluth, the World Theater in Omaha, Grauman's Metropolitan and the Mission Theater in Los Angeles, and Loew's Theaters on Long Island and Manhattan, New York. Moving up to manager, he was responsible for the Egyptian Theater in Long Beach, California, the Jewel in Los Angeles, Holme Theater in Philadelphia, and Fox Theater in Burlington, New Jersey. He also was a "Mr. Fix-It", specializing in the installation and repair of pipe organs.

So how did Eugene Stutenroth become Hollywood actor Gene Stutenroth/Roth? The December 25, 1943 issue of the Motion Picture Herald had an article about "another exhibitor who came to Hollywood - and became an actor! " Excerpts follow:

"The exhibitor's name is Gene Stutenroth, recently of Loew's Brooklyn circuit and before that of the Warner circuit in Philadelphia and until last February, the Atlantic circuit in that area. Exhibitor Stutenroth came to Hollywood with ambition to apply to the manufacture of warplanes the skill employed in his pre-exhibitor years on the fabrication and installation of pipe organs, and he did so apply it, entering the Lockheed plant, where he still works four hours a day for the purpose."

Sub headline: "Looked Like Nazi Officer Is Supposed To Look"

"But Exhibitor Stutenroth, who is Swedish, looked to Hollywood casting directors exactly like a Nazi officer is supposed to look ... and they talked him into doing a bit in a picture. " ; "... fit the Hollywood mental-picture of a motion-picture Nazi officer - also other assorted heavies - and he just finished his tenth role, five of which are speaking parts, as the studios say."

(If you'd like a copy of the full article, shoot an e-mail to ye Old Corral webmeister.)

Big and burly with his hair well oiled and slicked back - and often with a cigar in his hand - Roth portrayed brains heavies or Nazi officers or foreign agents ... and support/character roles or bit parts in A and B grade films as a policeman, detective, judge, guard, bartender, ship's captain, et al. He did not specialize in western movies, but worked in some with Gene Autry, Charles Starrett, Rex Allen, Bill Elliott, Rod Cameron, Kirby Grant, Duncan Renaldo (Cisco Kid), a few others.

Roth quickly became a busy guy in his new career as actor. Circa 1943-1946, he was frequently employed by Universal where he appeared in five cliffhangers and a few Rod Cameron and Kirby Grant westerns.

His work at Republic Pictures occurred during 1947-1955 and consisted of fifteen oaters and chapterplays.

Roth connected with producer Sam Katzman in 1947, and over the years, he appeared in over a dozen features and serials produced by Sam. The probablity is that Katzman cast him because he was solid and dependable ... or he just had the "look" and demeanor that Sam wanted. Roth did other films at Columbia. Examples: there was a 1950 Charles Starrett/Durango Kid, a couple of Gene Autrys, and some of the later Three Stooges shorts and features (ones with Shemp Howard, Joe DeRita and Joe Besser).

Roth was one of many who transitioned into the new medium of television, and can be spotted in scores of 1950s and 1960s TV programs, including many westerns. His later film work includes low budget horror flicks such as his portrayals of lawmen in EARTH VS. THE SPIDER (American International, 1958) and ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (American International, 1959). During these later acting jobs, Roth carried more poundage around his waistline and his hair was grey.

Below are a few examples of Gene Roth in oaters and cliffhangers. The name change from Euegene Stutenroth to the shortened "Eugene/Gene Roth" occurs circa 1949:

Jack Tillmany had a chance meeting with the retired Gene Roth. Jack writes:

"He seems to have retired from acting before reaching age 65, since his last film and television credits are 1967, but in later years he worked as cashier at the drug store on the SW corner of Hollywood and Highland. Imagine my surprise when I stopped in there one afternoon and had Gene Roth ring up my purchase! Happily, I had my autograph book in my pocket, and of course he obliged! By way of trivia: Gene Roth kept a record of all his film work which I got a copy of a long time back, and updated his credits on IMDb. The drugstore was in the heart of Hollywood, across the street and about a half block East of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. It's now a souvenir shop."

Les Adams has Roth identified in about 200 films, and that includes 40+ westerns and 20+ chapterplays. His movie and TV career spanned about twenty five years, from about 1940 through the mid 1960s.

My recollections of Gene Roth was his bulk and longish "badguy face". But he never joined the ranks of the top, most remembered villains of the cliffhanger and B western. I always thought his style was too laid-back. And while he did show malevolence, he didn't - or couldn't - display the violence and skullduggery that I admired in Fred Kohler, Noah Beery Sr., Harry Woods, Leroy Mason, and Roy Barcroft.

Gene Roth was walking near his home on July 19, 1976 and was critically injured when he was struck by a car. He passed away from his injuries at Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles on July 19, 1976. I did not find an obituary or death notice in ProQuest obituaries or Newspaper Archive.


Special thanks to Diane Grom, Gene Roth's grand-daughter, for sharing information on Gene and the Stutenroth Family. Sad to report that Diane passed away in 2010.

(Courtesy of Diane Grom)

Above - Roth as "Vultura" in the 1951 CAPTAIN VIDEO serial.
Diane Grom was Gene Roth's grand-daughter and had been researching the Stutenroth family and genealogy for years. Diane and ye Old Corral webmaster connected in early 2009, and she provided additional details on her grandfather:

"... his full name was 'Eugene Oliver Edgar Stutenroth' - in that order. Although he never used the 'Edgar' that I know of - I think it's a Swedish derivation of 'Edward' - his birth certification includes it. His mom had to give South Dakota an affidavit to get him a birth certificate, as I don't think that state issued them that early. Perhaps it was originally 'Edward' - but, she gave the affidavit around 1930, and that's the information she gave the state of South Dakota."

"Ruth Irene was his cousin." (in reference to the photos at the University of South Dakota link below).

"... my grandmother was the Broadway dancer Helen Mack (her stage name - not to be confused with the film star of the same name) - Gene married her in the 1920s. They met in New York, but were married in Danville, Kentucky, and lived for a time in New York. My father was his son 'Eugene Arthur Stutenroth' (born in Chicago - 'Arthur' for my grandmother's brother) and very closely resembled Gene (so much so, that it sometimes still surprises me). Gene also had a daughter Dorene Lee Stutenroth.

"I have Gene's death certificate from Los Angeles County, and that's what it says" (relating to my question about his death being caused by a hit-and-run driver).

"Gene really grew up in the old west you know - that's what South Dakota was."



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are big and burly Gene Roth/Stutenroth giving orders to big and burly Roy Barcroft in a scene from the Allan 'Rocky' Lane adventure, OKLAHOMA BADLANDS (Republic, 1948).



(From Old Corral image collection)

There were multiple Durango Kids in TRAIL OF THE RUSTLERS (Columbia, 1950). On the far left is Gail Davis, better known as TV's ANNIE OAKLEY. Next to Gail Davis is Gene Roth/Stutenroth and Starrett sidekick Smiley Burnette is sitting at the desk. Charles Starrett has his sixgun leveled on the second Durango Kid (played by Don Harvey). The two players on the right with backs to the camera are Myra McKinney and Myron Healey.



(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above - Ken Curtis attends to the dying Gene Roth (Gene Stutenroth) while Roy Barcroft looks on. There are several unidentified players in the background - in the center, with checkerboard shirt and hands hanging at his side is an older Chick Hannan. Scene from chapter one of DON DAREDEVIL RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1951).


Links


  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Gene Roth/Stutenroth: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0744841/

I mentioned that Roth may have been friendly with producer Sam Katzman. The IMDb has him in over a dozen Katzman serials and features during the years 1947-1957: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?at=0&roles=nm0744841,nm0441947&sort=release_date_us&title_type=feature,tv_episode,video,tv_movie,tv_special,mini_series,documentary,game,short

YouTube has some trailers with Roth:
Roth as "Vultura" in the CAPTAIN VIDEO serial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVGRb5wqF1o
Roth as the local sheriff in EARTH VS. THE SPIDER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53uxiIvHF0I
Roth with Buster Crabbe in the serial PIRATES OF THE HIGH SEAS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-FRFMe9b2g

Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has a webpage on Gene Roth and his many 1940s-1950s serial appearances at Universal, Republic and Columbia: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-villains/gene-roth/

The threestooges.net website has Roth in about a dozen 1940s-1950s shorts with the zany trio: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/277

John McElwee's Greenbriar Picture Show website has a writeup by Scott MacGillivray on Gene Roth doing movie theater managing and World War II work at Lockheed prior to his film career: http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/2013/06/just-in-scott-macgillivray-finds.html

Bill Capello connected with Roth when he worked at that drug store/liquor store. Capello also notes that Roth was killed by a hit-and-run driver: http://billcappello.blogspot.com/2008/04/gene-roth.html

Google searches are always fun. There's a 1923 yearbook photo of the University Orchestra at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota. Playing second violin is Ruth Stutenroth. Another photo from that same period is the Zeta Chi Delta sorority and Ruth Stutenroth is shown. Diane Grom notes that Ruth Irene Stutenroth was Gene Roth's cousin. Go to: http://www.deadfred.com/photos/35491.jpg and http://www.deadfred.com/photos/35571.jpg


On the trail of Eugene Stutenroth / Gene Roth
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), death certificate, Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and California Death Index have information on Eugene Stutenroth / Gene Roth.

Note the mangling of the Stutenroth name in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses.

Family Trees on Ancestry as well as genealogy website messages and e-mails from Diane Grom indicate that Gene's wives were:

     Helen McGimsey/McGinsey (a ballet dancer with a stage name of Helen Mack; mother of Diane Grom's father, Eugene Arthur Stutenroth)
     Dorothy Biddle (mother of Dorene Lee Stutenroth)

The South Dakota Geneology Trails website has Spink County, South Dakota births listed for Gene (born 8 Jan 1903), his brother Allen (born 24 May 1897) and cousin Ruth (born 13 Oct 1901): http://genealogytrails.com/sdak/spink/birthsST.html


Questions ... and lots of confusion.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) biography on Roth has several items which we've been unable to confirm:

He was married four times and was the father of three children - son Eugene Arthur and daughters Rosemarie and Dorene.

And he was married to a Velda Parsons from 1924-1925, they were divorced and there was one child.

Our research indicates he had two wives, Helen and Dorothy ... and there were two children, Eugene Arthur Stutenroth (with wife Helen) and Dorene Lee Stutenroth (with wife Dorothy).

And there's this confusion:

Cook County, Illinois birth index - Richard Mack Hudson was born October 29, 1928 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Parents were Eugene O. Stutenroth (about 28 years old and born in Redfield, South Dakota) and Helen Mcginsey (about 22 years old and born Omaha, Nebraska): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKDC-DQY9

Ancestry.com and Family Search have Social Security death records and California Death Index records for: Richard Mack Hudson, born October 29, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois to Eugene O. Stutenroth and Helen E. McGimsey. He passed away on August 24, 1985 in the Los Angeles area. The following link is to the California Death Index at Family Search: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VG1P-HQC



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