Gus Schilling

August "Gus" Schilling (June 20, 1908 — June 16, 1957) was an American film actor who started in burlesque comedy and usually played nervous comic roles, often unbilled. A friend of Orson Welles, he appeared in five of the director's films — Citizen Kane (first screen performance), The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady from Shanghai, Macbeth and Touch of Evil (final performance, released posthumously).[1]

Gus Schilling
Robert Ryan and Gus Schilling (right) in a screenshot from the trailer for 1951's On Dangerous Ground
August Schilling

(1908-06-20)June 20, 1908
DiedJune 16, 1957(1957-06-16) (aged 48)
Years active1940-1958
Spouse(s)Betty Rowland (?-?) (divorced)


Born in New York City, Schilling had a rubber face and flustered gestures which made him a natural comedian and he began his career understudying comedy stars Bert Lahr and Joe Penner on Broadway. He soon became a favorite among burlesque comedians, who welcomed him into the burlesque profession. Schilling married burlesque star Betty Rowland and the couple toured in the Minsky burlesque troupe.

Orson Welles saw Schilling in New York and followed him to Florida. There Welles hired Schilling to appear in a stage production featuring several Shakespearean scenes. "I learned my part by taking the script to Welles and having him translate the lines to everyday English," Schilling recalled in 1939. Welles promised Schilling a part in Welles's first motion picture, and kept his promise: Schilling is featured in Citizen Kane (1941).[2] This established Schilling in Hollywood movies as a "nervous" comedian (he plays a jittery symphony conductor in Olsen and Johnson's Hellzapoppin', for example). He also co-starred with character comedian Richard Lane in a series of 11 comedy shorts for Columbia Pictures; the series ran from 1945 to 1950.[3]

Personal life

In July 1945 Schilling was arrested in Hollywood on charges of possession of narcotics. At his trial he testified that he admitted ownership of the marijuana to save his wife from arrest. The all-woman jury acquitted Schilling on November 29.[4]

Schilling's marriage to Betty Rowland ended in divorce. His professional career remained successful, and he worked in movies and television throughout the 1950s. His final film, Welles's Touch of Evil, in which he has a brief uncredited appearance, was released in May 1958, nearly a year after his death.

Schilling died of a heart attack in his Hollywood apartment,[5][6] four days short of his 49th birthday.



  1. Churchill, Douglas W. "Screen News Here and in Hollywood / Gus Schilling First Choice for Role in Welles–RKO Film, 'Heart of Darkness'" (The New York Times, August 31, 1939, p.14)
  2. Delmont, Jim (November 2, 1998). "Orson Welles Should Be Smiling Now". Omaha World-Herald. p. 33. Welles was obviously having a good time directing, pulling into minor roles some old buddies, including...Gus Schilling (a veteran of Welles' "Citizen Kane," "Ambersons" and "The Lady From Shanghai")
  3. Special to the New York Times. "Grofe Will Write Music for Films" (The New York Times, July 18, 1945, p.21)
  4. "Heiress Has Baby Daughter". Los Angeles Times. November 29, 1945. Retrieved July 4, 2011. Gus Schilling, actor-husband of Betty Rowland, burlesque's "Ball of Fire," was found innocent of charges of possessing narcotics yesterday by an all...
  5. "Gus Schilling, Comedian, Dies in Home". Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1957. Retrieved 4 July 2011. Comedian August Gus Schilling 49 was found dead apparently of a heart attack yesterday morning in his apartment
  6. Special to The New York Times. "August E. Schilling" (The New York Times, June 17, 1957, p.23)
  7. "Of Local Origin / "At the Palace the newcomer will be It's a Pleasure, a Sonia Henie starring vehicle produced by International Pictures for RKO release. Michael O'Shea, Marie McDonald, Bill Johnson and Gus Schilling are featured…" (The New York Times, May 3, 1945, p.26)
  8. French, Philip (October 6, 1996). "The week in reviews". The Observer. p. 11. For this his final Hollywood picture, Welles cast four actors from Citizen Kane, two of them (Joseph Cotten and Gus Schilling) unbilled
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