Monday 6 April 2015

Jack La Rue: the Internet versus the Truth

It turns out that there is more to Jack La Rue than meets the eye. Even more interesting that most of the information available on La Rue on the internet and even in several newspaper articles were wrong. Now, I can believe that Wikipedia and IMBD got facts wrong but some were even more long term and in grained. Thanks to the help of La Rue's nephew, Ronald Cognata, for ensuring I get my information correct and even revealing an interesting picture and story never seen before on the internet.
For those not familiar with Jack La Rue, he was born Gaspere Biondolillo in New York City, New York on May 3, 1902. He began acting in the early 1920’s when he was offered a role as an extra. He began trying to land more film roles but moved into stage work and debuted at the Empire Theatre in 1921 in a production of “Blood and Sand”. He was discovered by director Howard Hawkes who auditioned him for the role of Rinaldo in “Scarface” (1932). He was unsuccessful; however, subsequently received roles in “Night World” (1932) and “While Paris Sleeps” (1932). His first break-through role was in the Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes film “A Farewell to Arms” (1932). His next big break and first starring role would come the following year as Trigger in Paramount’s controversial film, “The Story of Temple Drake” (1933). Jack La Rue’s was married three times. First to socialite Connie Simpson then briefly to Austrian Baroness Violet Edith von Roseberg lastly to Anne Giordano. He died January 11, 1984 from a heart attack.
For a full biography check out my original post here.

Now lets delve into it:

What the internet says:
“Jack La Rue…is the father of actor Jack La Rue Jr.”
IMDB also states that ‘Jack La Rue Jr’ appeared in Crypt of the Living Dead (1973) and The Young Nurses (1973).

What Ron says:
“Jack La Rue did not have ANY CHILDREN. I will not tell you the name of the person known as Jack La Rue Jr. however this person was married to Kim Darby (for a short time) after her divorce from James Stacy. Do some research.”

This is proved by an article published in the Evening Independent Newspaper, April 4, 1979.

What the internet says:
“It was reported in 1946 that La Rue was concussed during a fight at a Hollywood party allegedly involving Lawrence Tierney, Diane Barrymore and a mannequin named Mona who was previously owned by Errol Flynn.”

What Ron says:
“Most Blogs have my uncle in a punch out with Lawrence Tierney at a party (not true). Fact: Tierney and his brother Scott Brady were ready to duke it out when my uncle got between them to prevent a fight and got tagged with a wild punch and flew out of an open window. The item in the papers ( he thought ) was good for his Image.”

What the internet says:
“He was discovered by director Howard Hawkes and brought to Hollywood to audition for the role of Rinaldo in a film called “Scarface” (1932). The film, unfortunately, proved to be the movie debut for George Raft who nabbed the role La Rue was vying for, mainly, because Hawke concluded La Rue was too tall for the part.”      

What Ron says:
"Hawks did offer my uncle a job, and R.K.O. SIGNED HIM A CONTRACT. When my uncle read the script and realized it was a parity on AL CAPONE'S life he did not want the role because he knew Capone and if he did not like it people disappeared. He told Hawks to give it to his friend RAFT. PAUL MUNI WAS 5'10" and my uncle was 6'0 this is an easy fix. How this height thing came about I don't know. The contracts the studio's were making paid the talent like they were on a salary WORK OR NOT. Soon they cancelled those contracts.

What the internet says:
La Rue is generally considered a "movie actor" and was in demand to play second fiddle gangster roles during the early 30s all the way to the late 40s.

What Ron says:
       "Now back in New York sometime in the 1940's. In 1947, I am 7 Years old and at the PALACE THEATER and I'm on the stage during a rehearsal doing a bit with my uncle. Again the blogs are wrong, most of this career life he was more in demand on broad way not in Hollywood. His last stage role was again with Mae West (in her late 70's or 80's). He never traveled with broadway show as he refused to live out of a suitcase, however this time he did because she his friend and the show was called SEXTET."

Other than his screen career, Lae Rue's personal life may have tainted some peoples view of him. Personally it didn't, his three marriages two ending in annulment and one divorce is not a good record but definitely lives up to my idea of a Hollywood leading man. However, by Ron's words it appears that La Rue rather than being the typical "bad guy" as his Hollywood roles suggest quite simply picked the wrong women to marry. Ron continues about La Rue's first and longest marriage to socialite, Connie Simpson.
"My aunt Connie (Simpson) wife #1 arrived in California after being presented to the Queen of England for Coming Out. She was a spoiled rich that arrived in California with her uncle father and brother. She was a socialite and my uncle was a Sicilian home body. It lasted for about seven years and then she divorced him. They stayed very closeduntil she pasted away. That was his first and only love."
La Rue and Connie Simpson
Ron's words that Connie was La Rue's "first and only love" probably account for his supposed behaviour when he followed her to Reno and commenced a very public argument at a hotel. It continued with La Rue later resisting arrest and police claiming he yelled,  “I’m the gangster you see in movies. I’m a tough guy.” Therefore, instead of being possessive and domineering as some may read into this account, maybe he just wanted her back.

La Rue's second wife Austrian Baroness Violet Edith von Roseberg - like I said in my first article - appeared to be a major mistake in the actor's life with the union lasting just over a fortnight.
"Aunt Edith, was another British subject with an Austrian title. She lasted aboutas long as it took to have dinner at mygrandmother's house. Uncle had it annulledstating that she was using him for a way into U.S. citizenship."
La Rue and Baroness von Roseberg 
His last marriage was to a woman who also was right for him.
"Ann Gordano had been married to my family's cousin, a doctor who had died a an early age. I think she had come to California  seeking him out. She tried to control him which workednot at all. Remember at this stage Uncle started refusing to read scripts his agent to him.He was in the restaurant business only except for a few occasions when friends called him to play acme; twice for Frank Sinatra, twice for Robert Vaughn and a stage production when Mae West wanted to have her last fling on stage."
Anne in 1936
For a Hollywood actor it is difficult to know for certain his relationships outside of marriage. There exists several photos of La Rue and actress Ida Lupino in the mid thirties with both looking happy and very much together but it is difficult to ascertain whether this was a studio orgestrated relationship. Lupino ended up marrying actor Louis Hayward in 1938.
La Rue and Lupino
La Rue and Lupino
Towards the end of the 1940's La Rue, as his record of films completed shows, became bored and frustrated with the Hollywood system and didn't remain in LA. Ron elaborates:
"At the time my uncles contract was cancelled he got a long term stage gig in London made one movie called  NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH (Sp).
"He then landed back in New York for a while and then back to London until the Nazi's were bombing England.
“Joe Kennedy got him out of England on one of this cargo ships."
Ron also presented another interesting part of La Rue's past not available before on the internet. In his family records was an intriguing photo of the John Barrymore and artist John Decker with Decker holding up a portrait of La Rue. The story behind the picture is still unclear but both men appear to be holding playing cards with each man drawing one card. They are sitting in artist Decker’s studio with a picture commissioned by Barrymore in the background.  


  1. Wonderful post! I just wrote about The Story of Temple Drake in my blog, and dedicated a paragraph to Jack. Luckily, I didn't put any of these common mistakes in my piece. This was a very informative article, well done!

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  4. So. Is this nephew the nephew Darby married who called himself Jack LaRue Jr.? The article about her marriage says the La Rue Jr. she married is "the NEPHEW of the original" Jack LaRue.

  5. Is Ronald Cognata the man who married Kim Darby as Jack LaRue Jr.?

  6. He was Hollywood High, class of 1958. She married him in 1978. That would hake him about 38-ish, she was 31 at that time. funny - he didn't mention her, just his uncle. There are others ion the internet trying to figure out who Jack LaRue Jr. is based on HER marriage to him. The longest marriage she had at just barely 3 years!

    If so, someone needs to add that to her IMDB Bio!


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