Luis van Rooten

Luis d'Antin van Rooten (November 29, 1906 – June 17, 1973) was a Mexican-born American actor.

Luis van Rooten
Luis Van Rooten on The Mysterious Traveler
Luis d'Antin van Rooten

(1906-11-29)November 29, 1906
DiedJune 17, 1973(1973-06-17) (aged 66)
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
OccupationActor, author, translator
Years active1944–1968
Spouse(s)Catherine Gaylord Kelly
ChildrenCourtlandt Van Rooten[1]

Van Rooten was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was eight, growing up in Pennsylvania. He earned his BA at the University of Pennsylvania and worked as an architect before deciding to pursue film work in Hollywood during World War II. His facility with languages made van Rooten an in-demand military radio announcer during the war, and he conducted a variety of broadcasts in Italian, Spanish, and French. This led into film work, often in roles requiring an accent or skill with dialects. He was sometimes credited as Louis Van Rooten.[2]

Film work

Known for his villainous roles, he played Nazi ringleader Heinrich Himmler in The Hitler Gang (1944) and Operation Eichmann (1961). He played supporting roles with a number of film stars, including Alan Ladd in Two Years Before the Mast (1946) and Beyond Glory (1948), Charles Laughton in The Big Clock (1948), Veronica Lake in Saigon (1948), Edward G. Robinson in Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), and Kirk Douglas in Detective Story (1951). He provided the voices for both the King and the Grand Duke in Walt Disney's animated film Cinderella (1950).

Radio, Broadway and television

Van Rooten found steady work doing narration in addition to acting in live television and radio dramas, such as The Affairs of Peter Salem,[3] The Mysterious Traveler and I Love a Mystery, particularly as "The Maestro" in the 1949 story "Bury Your Dead, Arizona" and as ranch foreman "Jasper" in the 1950 story "The Battle of the Century". He portrayed the evil Roxor in the late 1940s revival of the radio serial Chandu the Magician and portrayed the title character's sidekick, Denny, in Bulldog Drummond.[4] Van Rooten played Emilio in the radio soap opera Valiant Lady.[5] He also performed on Broadway in Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet (1958) and John Osborne's Luther (1963). In 1958 he guest-starred as murderer Samuel D. Carlin in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the One-Eyed Witness."


He is best known for his character work in films, but van Rooten was also a skilled artist and designer and the author of several sophisticated books of humor. These include Van Rooten's Book of Improbable Saints[6] and The Floriculturist's Vade Mecum of Exotic and Recondite Plants, Shrubs and Grasses, and One Malignant Parasite [7]

Van Rooten died June 17, 1973, in Chatham, Massachusetts, where he and his family had a vacation home.

Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Râmes

Van Rooten is well known in particular for his book Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Râmes (1967), ostensibly a collection of poems by an obscure and unsung Frenchman (with translations and commentary). Van Rooten used French words and phrases which, when spoken aloud with a French accent, produce English Mother Goose rhymes, a work of homophonic translation. The following example, when spoken aloud, sounds like the opening lines to "Humpty Dumpty":[8]

Un petit d'un petit
S'étonne aux Halles
Un petit d'un petit
Ah! Degrés te fallent

A free translation might read:

Child of a child
Astonished by Les Halles
Child of a child
Ah, you lack degrees


Year Title Role Notes
1944The Hitler GangHeinrich Himmler
1946Two Years Before the Mast2nd Mate Foster
1948To the Ends of the EarthCommissioner Alberto Berado
1948The Big ClockEdwin Orlin
1948To the VictorGeran
1948Beyond GloryDr. White
1948Night Has a Thousand EyesMr. Myers
1948The Gentleman from NowhereF.B. Barton
1949Boston Blackie's Chinese VentureBill Craddock
1949City Across the RiverJoe Cusack
1949The Secret of St. IvesClausel
1950CinderellaKing / Grand DukeVoice
1951Detective StoryJoe Feinson
1951My Favorite SpyRudolf Hoenig
1952Lydia BaileyGeneral Charles LeClerc
1953The Great AdventureNarrator (Anders as an adult)(U.S. version), Voice
1955The Sea ChaseMatz
1957The Unholy WifeEzra Benton
1958FräuleinFritz Graubach
1958Curse of the Faceless ManDr. Carlo Fiorillo
1961Operation EichmannHeinrich Himmler
1968What's So Bad About Feeling Good?Dr. FowlerUncredited, (final film role)


  2. Luis van Rooten at IMDb
  3. Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960, 2nd Edition, Volume 1. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4. P. 14.
  4. Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  5. "What Do You Want to Know?" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. 14 (5): 63. September 1940. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  6. van Rooten, luis; Schuman, Jacqueline (1975). Van Rooten's Book of Improbable Saints. Viking. OCLC 251457174.
  7. The Floriculturist's Vade Mecum of Exotic and Recondite Plants, Shrubs and Grasses, and One Malignant Parasite. Doubleday. 1973. ISBN 9780385009003. OCLC 623430.
  8. "Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Humpty Dumpty". The Guardian. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
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