Philip Van Zandt
October 4, 1904
|Died||February 15, 1958 (aged 53)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Philip Van Zandt (October 4, 1904 – February 15, 1958), sometimes billed as Phil Van Zandt, was a Dutch-American actor of stage, film, and television. He made nearly 250 film and television appearances between 1939 and 1958.
Born Philip Pinheiro in Amsterdam, he was brought to the United States when he was five months old in March 1905. Van Zandt made his stage debut in 1925, as an assistant to magician Howard Thurston. He began playing dramatic roles in 1927 and eventually landed on Broadway, appearing in 10 different productions between 1931 and 1938, none of which were hits.
Van Zandt made his Hollywood debut in 1939 and, in the two decades that followed, appeared in over 140 films. The actor auditioned for director John Cromwell's film Flotsam (ultimately released as So Ends Our Night). Cromwell explained that the role called for expert card manipulation. Van Zandt hadn't done this since his apprenticeship with Thurston but, as columnist Duncan Underhill reported, "was game to try. 'All right,' Cromwell said, cutting and shuffling a new deck of cards and passing it over. 'Deal me a royal flush.' Van Zandt flipped out the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of diamonds. 'Now deal me a contract,' he countered."
Curiously, Van Zandt was under contract to a studio only once (for Columbia, a one-year pact in 1945-46). He made his living as a freelance actor, playing minor supporting roles. In 1941 he played a small but important part as magazine editor Rawlston in the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane. Van Zandt's Dutch-sounding stage name assured him steady employment during wartime as continental types: spies, saboteurs, ememy agents. While under contract to Columbia he began appearing in the studio's two-reel slapstick comedies, beginning with Pardon My Terror (1946) starring Gus Schilling and Richard Lane. Van Zandt went on to work with Andy Clyde, Hugh Herbert, Joe Besser and especially The Three Stooges, remaining with the Columbia shorts unit until it closed in 1957. Philip Van Zandt is chiefly remembered for the Columbia comedies, because he was given featured roles that allowed him more scope. He played butlers, racketeers, military officers, mad scientists, even the Devil in these fast-paced shorts. He also made several appearances in the Joe McDoakes shorts at Warner Bros.
Van Zandt, like many freelance actors, also found work in the new medium of television, appearing in The Buster Keaton Show, Hopalong Cassidy, Jungle Jim, Gang Busters, and I Married Joan, among other programs.
In the mid-1950s Van Zandt, sensing that his screen career was flagging, supplemented his income by establishing an acting school. By this time he suffered bouts of depression and was spending practically all of his income on compulsive gambling. This led to his committing suicide by overdosing on Hypnotic. His last film appearance was in the Three Stooges comedy Fifi Blows Her Top, released nearly two months after his death.
Van Zandt was cremated; his ashes were placed in the vault at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles. As of June 2023, his ashes were removed from Vault 2, possibly to be moved to the different areas or scattered.