Vince Barnett

Vince Barnett (July 4, 1902 August 10, 1977) was an American film actor. He appeared on stage originally before appearing in more than 400 films between 1930 and 1975.

Vince Barnett
Lobby card for Streamline Express (1935) with Vince Barnett at center
Born(1902-07-04)July 4, 1902
DiedAugust 10, 1977(1977-08-10) (aged 75)
Years active1930-1975
Genevieve Meier
(m. 1929; died 1955)

Kit Barnett
(m. 1971)

Early years

Barnett was born July 4, 1902, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Luke Barnett, a well-known comedian who specialized in insulting and pulling practical jokes on his audiences.[1] (Luke's professional nickname was "Old Man Ribber" and "the King of Ribbing".)

Barnett graduated from Duquesne University Prep School and Carnegie Institute of Technology.[2] An avid amateur pilot, he flew mail planes for a couple of years.


"Barnett for years [was] known in Hollywood as the 'professional ribber' -- appearing at banquets and parties as a paid 'insulter.'"[3] He would insult the guests in a thick German accent, spill the soup and drop the trays—all to the great delight of hosts who enjoyed watching their friends squirm and mutter "Who hired that jerk?"

During the transition from silent films to sound, an employee at MGM hired Barnett to prank Louis B. Mayer. He impersonated a sound expert and went to a sound-stage under construction with Mayer, criticizing the construction and using double-talk to confuse him. He ended his evaluation by proclaiming the whole sound-stage needed to be torn down, and Mayer was about to order it done before his co-workers revealed the prank. [4]

"Among the celebrated 'victims' of his practical jokes were President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Bernard Shaw, Henry Ford, and Charles Lindbergh."[5]


Barnett's initial involvement with Hollywood was as a screenwriter,[6] "writing screenplays for the two-reeler movies of the late 1920s."[2] He went on to appear in more than 400 films.[7]

The diminutive, chrome-domed Barnett also appeared in the 1926 edition of Earl Carroll's Vanities. He began appearing in films in 1930, playing hundreds of comedy bits and supporting parts until retiring in 1975. Among his more sizable screen roles was the moronic, illiterate gangster "secretary" in Scarface. From 1930 Barnett appeared, usually as comedy relief, in films and on television in a career spanning 45 years. Among his best-regarded early roles, apart from Scarface, were The Big Cage (1933), Thirty Day Princess (1934) and, in a perfectly suited Runyonesque part, Princess O'Hara (1935). In later years, Barnett often relinquished his comedy image and was seen in innumerable small roles, often as careworn little men, undertakers, janitors, bartenders and drunks in pictures ranging from films noir (The Killers, 1946) to westerns (Springfield Rifle, 1952).

Later years and death

In one of his last public appearances, Barnett showcased his unique brand of humour with a monologue, delivered at Madison Square Garden in the vaudeville revue The Big Show of 1936.[8]

Barnett died of heart disease August 10, 1977, at Encino Hospital Medical Center.[7] He was survived by his wife, Kit, a brother and a sister.[9]

Selected filmography


  1. Aaker, Everett (2006). Encyclopedia of Early Television Crime Fighters. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6409-8. Pp. 32-34.
  2. "Heinz Hosts Native Son". The Indiana Gazette. June 10, 1972. p. 31. Retrieved November 1, 2015 via
  3. ""Scarface" Finally Passed by Censors". Cumberland Sunday Times. July 3, 1932. p. 7. Retrieved November 1, 2015 via
  4. Eyman, Scott. The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930. Simon and Schuster, New York: 1997.
  5. Katz, Ephraim (1979). The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume. Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-50601-2. P. 81.
  6. "Remember Vince Barnett?". The Lowell Sun. June 21, 1972. p. 11. Retrieved November 1, 2015 via
  7. "Actor Vince Barnett dead". The Ottawa Journal. August 11, 1977. p. 5. Retrieved November 2, 2015 via
  8. Johnson, Nels (August 8, 1972). "Familiar Names Still Bask In Limelight of Vaudeville". Daily Independent Journal. p. 12. Retrieved November 2, 2015 via
  9. "Movie comic dies". Redlands Daily Facts. August 11, 1977. p. 12. Retrieved November 2, 2015 via
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