Probably no one came by the label "Runyon-esque" more honestly than Polish-born actor George E. Stone; a close friend of writer Damon Runyon, Stone was seemingly put on this earth to play characters named Society Max and Toothpick Charlie, and to mouth such colloquialisms as "It is known far and wide" and "More than somewhat." Starting his career as a Broadway "hoofer," the diminutive Stone made his film bow as "the Sewer Rat" in the 1927 silent Seventh Heaven. His most prolific film years were 1929 to 1936, during which period he showed up in dozens of Warner Bros. "urban" films and backstage musicals, and also appeared as the doomed Earle Williams in the 1931 version of The Front Page. He was so closely associated with gangster parts by 1936 that Warners felt obligated to commission a magazine article showing Stone being transformed, via makeup, into an un-gangsterish Spaniard for Anthony Adverse (1936). For producer Hal Roach, Stone played three of his oddest film roles: a self-pitying serial killer in The Housekeeper's Daughter (1938), an amorous Indian brave in Road Show (1940), and Japanese envoy Suki Yaki in The Devil With Hitler (1942). Stone's most popular role of the 1940s was as "the Runt" in Columbia's Boston Blackie series. In the late '40s, Stone was forced to severely curtail his acting assignments due to failing eyesight. Though he was totally blind by the mid-'50s, Stone's show business friends, aware of the actor's precarious financial state, saw to it that he got TV and film work, even if it meant that his co-stars had to literally lead him by the hand around the set. No one was kinder to George E. Stone than the cast and crew of the Perry Mason TV series, in which Stone was given prominent billing as the Court Clerk, a part that required nothing more of him than sitting silently at a desk and occasionally holding a Bible before a witness.
photo credit: Warner Brothers
by Hal Erickson biography