Basil Ruysdael

Basil Ruysdael (born Basil Spaulding Millspaugh, July 24, 1878 October 10, 1960) was an American actor and opera singer.

Basil Ruysdael
Basil Spaulding Millspaugh

(1878-07-24)July 24, 1878
DiedOctober 10, 1960(1960-10-10) (aged 82)
Alma materCornell University
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1910–1960
Eleanor Manierre
(m. 1915; div. 1923)

Rose Swettenham
(m. 1925; div. 1944)

Kathleen Dobbyn
(m. 19??; his death 1960)
Parent(s)Dr. and Mrs. Charles Millspaugh

Early life

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, as Basil Spaulding Millspaugh, Ruysdael was the son of Dr. and Mrs. Charles Millspaugh.[1] He graduated from Waverly High School[2] and attended Cornell University from 1898-99 as a special student in mechanical engineering and sang with the Cornell University Glee Club. He sang secondary roles in the German repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as a bass-baritone from 1910 to 1918, appearing with such popular opera stars as Leo Skezak and Geraldine Farrar.

Stage career

Early in his career, Ruysdael appeared on the New York stage. His Broadway credits include Enchanted Isle (1927), The Cocoanuts (1927), The Cocoanuts (1925), Topsy and Eva (1924), and Robin Hood (1912).[3]

Film career

Ruysdael was also a prolific character actor in films. He is probably best known to modern audiences as Detective Hennessey in the first Marx Brothers film The Cocoanuts, a role he created in the stage play. He also appeared in Pinky, The File on Thelma Jordon, Colorado Territory, Broken Arrow, People Will Talk, Carrie, The Violent Men, Blackboard Jungle, The Last Hurrah and The Horse Soldiers.

In 1955, Ruysdael played General Andrew Jackson in miniseries Davy Crockett. Ruysdael was cast as Joseph in "The Policeman's Gun", a 1958 episode of Official Detective. In his final television role he appeared on Perry Mason as Henry W. Dameron in the 1959 episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma". His last on-screen role was in The Story of Ruth in 1960. His last film role was One Hundred and One Dalmatians, in which he provided a voice characterization; the film itself was released one year after his death.

Radio career

Ruysdael narrated the NBC Blue Network series Stones of History which was broadcast in 1934 and 1935. He was the announcer on a syndicated programme for Rexall in 1939 before becoming the commercial spokesman for DuPont on Cavalcade of America on the NBC Blue Network in 1940. By 1941, he was a pitch-man for Lucky Strike cigarettes, which sponsored several shows including Your Hit Parade, Information Please and The Jack Benny Show. He appeared, transcribed, on the latter show from October 1, 1944 to November 28, 1948 and gave his name near the end of the final commercial. Ruysdael was also the announcer on a 1944 summer replacement show, Mother and Dad, starring Parker Fennelly on CBS, and The Radio Reader's Digest in 1946 on CBS.

Voice teacher

Ruysdael moved to California in 1923 to teach voice. His most famous pupil was baritone Lawrence Tibbett.[1]


Ruysdael died on October 10, 1960, at the age of 82, of complications following surgery in a hospital in Hollywood, California. He was survived by his widow, Kathleen, who was his third wife. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Omaha, Nebraska.

Partial filmography


  1. "Pupil of Former Waverly Singer Is Now Famous". The Evening Times. Pennsylvania, Sayre. August 29, 1930. p. 6. Retrieved August 21, 2018 via
  2. "Waverly Singer Wants to Change His Name". Star-Gazette. New York, Elmira. February 18, 1915. p. 15. Retrieved August 21, 2018 via
  3. "Basil Ruysdael". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on August 22, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
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