Jack La Rue

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Jack La Rue
Jack La Rue in For Heaven's Sake.jpg
Jack La Rue in For Heaven's Sake (1950)
Gaspare Biondolillo

(1902-05-03)May 3, 1902
New York City, U.S.
DiedJanuary 11, 1984(1984-01-11) (aged 81)
Occupation(s)Film and stage actor
Years active1923–1977
Constance Deighton Simpson
(m. 1938;div. 1946)

Violet Edith von Rosenberg
(m. 1949; annul.  1955)

Anne Giordano
(m. 1962;annul. 1967)

Jack La Rue (born Gaspare Biondolillo; [1] May 3, 1902 – January 11, 1984) was an American film and stage actor. [1]


Early life and family

Gaspare Biondolillo was the son of Sicilian immigrants Luigi Biondolillo (1874-1951) and Giuseppa (LoBue) Biondolillo (1879-1970). A miner from the town of Lercara Friddi, Luigi married Giuseppa on May 20, 1899. Not long thereafter, Luigi emigrated from Sicily to the port of New York on the steamer 'Vincenzo Florio', accompanied by his sister Francesca. Arriving on Aug 26, 1900, the two siblings joined their brother Pasquale, who was living at 99 West Houston Drive in the "Little Italy" section of Manhattan (from records published on Ancestry.com).

Giuseppa emigrated later, arriving in New York aboard the 'Gallia' on November 26, 1902. She brought along her 5 month old son Gaspare, and was accompanied by her parents Antonio Lobue and Rosalia (Lucania) LoBue, and their 15 year old son Giuseppe (Giuseppa's brother). They joined Luigi, who was then living at 416 East 11th Street in Manhattan (from records published on Ancestry.com).

Gaspare or "Jasper" was the oldest of six children; the others were Mary (Maria), Lena (Angelina), Rose (Rosalia), Pauline (Paolina), and Emily (Emilia). The sisters were all born in New York, but Gaspare was born in Lercara Friddi, Sicily. The various state and federal records are vary on this, some stating that Jasper was born in New York (from records published on Ancestry.com).

In the 1930 U.S. Census, Luigi Biondolillo was employed as a painter in a piano factory in New York. Jasper is listed as still living with his parents. However, not long thereafter, he moved to Hollywood to begin his film career (from records published on Ancestry.com).

Jasper's father Luigi had another brother Gioacchino Biondolillo, who emigrated to New York in 1906. He was called "Jack". Gaspare adopted this as his given name for the stage. His surname "La Rue" was derived from his mother's maiden name of LoBue, sometimes written as two words "Lo Bue" (from records published on Ancestry.com).

Jack vowed to bring his family to live with him in Hollywood once he had a little money. "Mom's a great cook", he said. [2] He made good on his word, and in the 1940 U.S. census, Luigi, Giuseppa, and daughters Rose and Emily, were living at Jack's home at 6244 Morella Avenue in North Hollywood. Jack's occupation was listed as "Motion Picture Actor" (from records published on Ancestry.com).

Jack's sister Pauline married Charles Raymond (Carmelo) Cognata on June 3, 1935 in New York City. In the 1940 census they were living in Kings, where Charles was employed as a musician. Sometime after that, they relocated to North Hollywood. In the 1950 census, the couple was living in Jack's home with their three sons. Jack's parents and sister Emily continued to reside in the home, however Jack's sister Rose, who married Peter Scamporino in 1943, had departed. Jack was also gone, married to Baroness Violet Edith von Rosenberg at the time. (from records published on Ancestry.com).

Jack's sister Emily, born May 16, 1917, was 15 years younger than Jack. She relocated to Hollywood while still a teenager to follow in her big brother's footsteps. She did make one change when taking her screen name, "Emily LaRue", preferring to spell her surname name with no spacing. Her screen debut came in "College Rhythm" (1934) and she went on to appear in titles like "Gold Diggers of 1935" (1935), "It Couldn't Have Happened (But It Did)" (1936), "Zaza" (1938), and "A New Kind of Love" (1963). Keeping busy into the 1960s, LaRue remained close to her older brother until his death in 1984. Married and divorced at least twice, Emily LaRue passed away on October 3, 2005 at the age of 88.

Jack's nephew Ronald Cognata also followed in Jack's footsteps, taking the stage name "Jack La Rue, Jr." He married actress Kim Darby on October 8, 1978 (they divorced on June 30, 1981). Jack La Rue, Jr. is known for has roles in Crypt of the Living Dead (1973) and The Young Nurses (1973).


La Rue went from high school to his first acting job in Otis Skinner's road company production of Blood and Sand. [2] He performed in Broadway plays from around 1923 to 1931. According to La Rue, while appearing in Mae West's play Diamond Lil , he was spotted by Howard Hawks, who offered him a part in the film Scarface (1932), starring Paul Muni. [3]


Jack moved to Hollywood sometime after 1930, where he appeared in numerous films. However, Scarface was not one of them. La Rue stated in a newspaper article that, after four days, Hawks had to replace him with George Raft because La Rue was taller than Muni and had a more powerful voice. [3] Later, however, Raft turned down the role of the despicable villain in The Story of Temple Drake (1933), fearing it would damage his screen image, so the part went to La Rue. Sometimes mistaken for Humphrey Bogart, he played thugs and gangsters for the most part. However, director Frank Borzage atypically cast him as a priest in the 1932 version of A Farewell to Arms simply because, according to newspaper columnist Hubbard Keavy, he was "tired of seeing conventional characters". [2] La Rue stated he turned down a role in The Godfather (1972) and many parts in the television series The Untouchables because of the way they portrayed Italian-Americans. [3]

Personal life

He was married three times. [1] La Rue married Los Angeles socialite Constance Deighton Simpson on September 22, 1938, in London. [4] She obtained a divorce on December 17, 1946, charging him with mental cruelty. [4] In 1955, he obtained an annulment from former Baroness Violet Edith von Rosenberg after six years of marriage, claiming she had only married him to obtain American citizenship and that they separated after less than two months. [5] He married Anne Giordano on August 12, 1962; she obtained an annulment in 1967. [6] La Rue had no children.[ citation needed ]

La Rue died of a heart attack at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, [7] at the age of 81. He was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.[ citation needed ]

Complete filmography

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  1. 1 2 3 "Jack LaRue, Actor, Is Dead; In 200 Films, Often as Villain". The New York Times . United Press International. January 13, 1984.
  2. 1 2 3 Hubbard Keavy (April 26, 1933). "Screen Life In Hollywood". Altoona Tribune . p. 4 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  3. 1 2 3 "Yesterday's Stars: La Rue doesn't like gangster stereotypes". The Mercury . Copley News Service. November 8, 1975. p. 40 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  4. 1 2 "Jack La Rue's Wife Is Divorced From Movie's [sic] Bad Man". Nevada State Journal . December 17, 1946. p. 2 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  5. "Jack La Rue Marriage to Ex-Baroness Ended". The Bridgeport Post . Associated Press. May 13, 1955 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  6. "Mrs. Jack La Rue Given Annulment". The Daily Mail. Associated Press. February 16, 1967. p. 16 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  7. "Movie bad guy Jack LaRue dies". The Montreal Gazette. United Press International. January 12, 1984. p. D-9. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  8. Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 324. ISBN   978-1936168-68-2.