Monday, November 26, 2012

The Frenchmen: Part Two

One of the trickier aspects of dealing lesser known character actors is simply the accurate identification of them. In this screen grab from Disney's Million Dollar Duck from 1971, we seen the well known veteran Edward Andrews (1915-85) in the foreground. He is on the telephone with the fourth in our group of Frenchmen we've been looking at. This film is the last credit I can find for the actor Peter Camlin. I have been able to find out almost nothing about him. One source says he was born in 1902, and to further complicate things, that source also says he's American! I can not find him listed in any biographical information on the internet, nor can I find any published obituary. I can find no theatrical or dramatic radio credits for him. The earliest film credit of his appears to be 1938's Artists and Models Abroad; followed by such well known pictures as Passage to Marseille (as a French Sergeant); The Razor's Edge; Show Boat (1951 version as a Croupier); An American in Paris; Gentlmen Prefer Blondes (as a Gendarme); Hitchcock's Man Who Knew Too Much (Headwaiter); Unskinkable Molly Brown (French Waiter); Boeing, Boeing (French Taxi Driver); and Disney's Monkeys Go Home! (Cabinet Maker). He worked in television as well, appearing in Hitchcock's series; Climax!; One Step Beyond; Boris Karloff's Thriller; Combat!; Bewitched; and Mayberry RFD in 1970 as what else...? a Maitre d'. How can someone whose career is at least 35 years long simply disappear. Can anyone out there answer the question... whatever happened to Peter Camlin ? Certainly the most familiar Frenchman from the 1950s to the 1980s would be the remarkably prolific Maurice Marsac.
He was born in LaCroix, France March 23, 1915 as Maurice Louis Ferrat. He changed his name after coming to America in 1947 to Maurice Marsac and he worked under that name ever after. Before leaving his native France, he had served in the French Army reserves as a captain, and worked as a secretary for the French Embassy in London until the outbreak of World War II. He returned to France and worked for the French Resistance during the war. His film debut appears to be Paris After Dark in 1943; followed by a good number of well known films including To Have and Have Not; The Razor's Edge (as a Maitre d'); Assignment Paris (Gendarme); April In Paris; How to Marry a Millionaire; Lafayette Escadrille; Gig; Can-Can; King of Kings (barely recognizable as Nicodemus); Poseidon Adventure; The Jerk; The Big Red One; and his last known feature, the 1987 Dragnet, as what else... a Maitre d'! There was probably no more familiar Frenchmen in television during the 1950s and 1970s than Monsieur Marsac. His credits read like the history of classic television...He fed snails to Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy; taught French at Our Miss Brooks' high school; was a villain on Superman; he worked multiple times with Burns and Allen and Red Skelton on their series in the 1950s; he provided French support on 
westerns when called for, such as Adventures of Jim Bowie; Northwest Passage; and Daniel Boone. He appeared in many police/detective series such as Public Defender; Peter Gunn; Markham; The Rogues; It Takes a Theif; Mission: Impossible; Mannix; Columbo; McCloud; The New Avengers; The Rockford Files; Barnaby Jones; Hart to Hart; The A-Team; and L.A. Law. He was particularly adept at comedy and in addition to those already mentioned, he continued to appear in top sitcoms such as Real McCoys; My Favorite Martian; Beverly Hillbillies; Hazel; Green Acres; Hogan's Heroes; My Three Sons; Bewitched; Soap; Family Ties; Facts of Life; and Night Court, just to name a small sampling. Maurice appears to have retired from acting in 1988, but he hardly decided to sit at home! For years, he and his wife Melanie (they married in 1952) participated in the world of Croquet. They would tour the world playing in tournaments and it became such an obsession that they remained active in this endeavor for the rest of their lives. Maurice was named resident pro at two Croquet clubs in Newport Beach and he was considered a valuable teacher at the famed Beverly Hills Croquet Club. Around 1996 the Marsacs moved from southern California to northern California (the outskirts of Santa Rosa), where they continued their love for croquet. At one point, late in his life, Marsac was considered in the top 5% of croquet players worldwide! Maurice's wife of 55 years Melanie, died at age 90 in April of 2007 at their home in Oakmont. Less than three weeks later, on May 6, Maurice passed away at 92 from cardiac arrest at a hospital in Santa Rosa. The couple was once described as..."Maurice and Melanie were lively, exciting and wonderful, wonderful people who did not know how to have a dull conversation". 

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