Biography

Diminutive, raspy-voiced German actor Fritz Feld first gained prominence as an assistant to Austrian impresario Max Reinhardt. Feld came to the U.S. in 1923 in the touring company of Reinhardt's The Miracle. Once he reached California, Feld formed the Hollywood Playhouse in partnership with Joseph Schildkraut; here he staged hundreds of productions featuring up-and-coming L.A. talent, including his future wife, actress Virginia Christine. In films on a sporadic basis since the 1920s, Feld began working onscreen regularly around 1936, eventually toting up over 400 movie appearances (not to mention his more than 700 TV stints and 1000-plus radio programs). He was cast as Viennese psychiatrists, Italian duellists, Teutonic movie directors, Russian orchestra leaders, and French maitre d's. It was in 1947's If You Knew Susie that Feld developed his signature "schtick": the sharp "Pop!" sound effect created by smacking his open mouth with the flattened palm of his hand. In the 1960s and 1970s, Feld was a favorite of moviemakers who'd grown up watching his vintage screen appearances; he was virtually a regular at the Disney studios, appeared in many of Jerry Lewis' projects, was given fourth billing in Gene Wilder's The World's Greatest Lover (1977), and was seen in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie (1976) (where his trademarked "Pop!" was conveyed via subtitle) and The History of the World, Part One (1981) (as the head waiter at the Last Supper). Among Fritz Feld's least characteristic screen appearances were his performance as a hearty Northwoods trapper in the 1976 "four-waller" Challenge to Be Free and his poignant cameo as the alcoholic who offers down-and-out Faye Dunaway a match in Barfly (1987). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi