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Florenz Ames (Jan 6. 1883 - Mar 6. 1961)


 

Height: 5' 6" (1m 67)
Eyes: brown
Marriages
:
(1) Mary F Irons (Marie Hampton? )(Nov 26, 1908 - ?, divorced)
(2)
Adelaide L. Ring aka Alice Winthrop (1919 - Oct 13, 1923, her death)
(3) Helen Jost(o) (Dec 31, 1923 - Feb 10, 1930, divorced)
(4)
Alice O'Donnell (Jul 3, 1930 - ?)

Son: Robert (mother Helen?)
 

Born as Florence Sebastian Kolb in Rochester, New York in 1884.

According to an article in The New York Sun from 1925 Ames was born in Germany, and his doting parents, apropos of nothing in particular, named him "Florence." Not Florenz, mind you, but Florence.

Unfortunately for the future actor little boys and little girls in Germany were at that time were similarly attired, and both wore long curls. Therefore as a boy Ames was frequently mistaken for a girl, and in school was seated with the girls. He objected about this to his teacher, who promptly sent him home to his parents with B sharp note, reprimanding them for raising a daughter who wanted to sit on the boys' side of the room. It was not until his parents visited the school and explained the situation to the teacher that the latter finally accepted the fact that Ames was really a boy.
The other boys of the school of course found this to be a source of intense delight and proceeded to make life miserable for this boy with a girl's name. It was likely Ames’ unquestionably masculine talent as a pugilist that finally put an end to his torment.

The climax to all of this occurred at graduation day, when the principal of the school, who did not know the pupils individually, read the name "Florence, Ames'' on the diploma, and called out for "Miss Ames" to step forward.
"That settles it," said the boy's father, "We'll change 'Florence' to Florenza!'" And they did. 

 Below left: Young Florenz Ames, date unknown

Young Florenz Ames, date unknownWe know Florenz (and Adelaide) performed with the Morton Opera and Musical co. in Central Park, Allentown. (1910 - 1911) Music was one of the most important features of musical comedy. In Nov 1912 Florenz Kolb star headed his own company at the State Street Theatre (Trenton?) let musical director Alexander Spencer take charge of the program. Ames’ first stage appearance occurred in Rochester in 1913 in the chorus of The Good Old Summer Time. Although reportedly he got his Broadway entree when a kind, "or unkind, I'm not sure now," lady singer heard him sing a duet with his mother, a choir singer, and gave him a letter of introduction to Julius Witmark, the New York music publisher, which netted him a job as chorus boy. Without a singing lesson to his name -even, Ames admitted, without much of a singing voice - he kept this job a year.

Florenz Ames actually started his acting career very late. With the support of his older brother Winthrop Ames, the largest theater producer and music hall in New York at the time, he began his theatrical career as a singer and dancer in vaudeville, often performing small scenes with his wife Adelaide "Alice" Winthrop. Starting out as early as 1913 as "Kolb and Harland", in 1915 this duo presented a clever little satire entitled Evolution, 1860 - 1920 in which they showed the evolution of the dance, the minuet to the polka. Eventually changed their act to "Florenz Ames and Adelaide Winthrop" in 1916. Under those names they had a thumbnail revue called One Minute, Please (1918) and appeared in a magazine titled Alice in Blunderland with Winthrop in the title role and Ames playing other roles. His first prominent role was when he opened at the Cohan and Harris Theater, Broadway on June 7, 1917 in Hitchy-Koo.

     Florenz Kolb and Adelaide Harland as billed in the Orpheum Theater San Francisco, 1913. Florenz Ames and Adelaide Winthrop, in "Alice in Blunderland" (Jan, 1921) which headlines the New Orpheum Bill.
Above left: Florenz Kolb and Adelaide Harland as billed in the Orpheum Theater San Francisco, 1913.
Above right: Florenz Ames and Adelaide Winthrop, in Alice in Blunderland (Jan, 1921) which headlines the New Orpheum Bill.
 
    Alice ”Adelaide” Winthrop, a variety dancer as she appeared in the title role of a revue called “Alice in Blunderland” with her husband, Florenz Ames . The pair appeared in different vaudeville runs as “Ames & Winthrop” and toured across the US performing this revue from the end of 1920 through 1921.
In 1923 he successfully teamed up with actor Eddie Dowling's wife Ray Dooley.
Above left: Alice ”Adelaide” Winthrop, a variety dancer as she appeared in the title role of a revue called Alice in Blunderland with her husband, Florenz Ames . The pair appeared in different vaudeville runs as “Ames & Winthrop” and toured across the US performing this revue from the end of 1920 through 1921.
Above right: In 1923 he successfully teamed up with actor Eddie Dowling's wife Ray Dooley.


After his wife died Ames reappeared on Broadway in Lady Butterfly (1923). By December 31st 1923 he was remarried to Helen Jost in Washington D.C.

He did start to restart another act. Not so lucky with Dorothy Gompert, after 6 weeks of rehearsing he called it quits and she sued him for $800 the Municipal Court. After which he successfully teamed up with actor Eddie Dowling's wife Ray Dooley (picture above right) (1923).

In January 1924 Miss Ray Dooley and Mr. Florenz Ames were seen together on B.F.Keiths vaudeville circuit in A Terpsichorean Dilemma (written by Joe Cawthorne), advertised as "The Funniest Skit Ever".

Florenz Kolb appeared in the premiere of Madame Pompadour on Nov 10, 1924 at the Martin Beck Theatre, NYC, his stage name now was Florenz Ames.

In 1925 Florenz sold the vaudeville production rights to all vaudeville acts and production scenes of "Ames and Winthrop" to Keith agents.

For the next thirty years of his career he was a singer and character actor in Broadway musicals.

Chief comedian of the Municipal Opera Company, St.Louis for a number of seasons he gave a talk "How to create a humorous role" for the Town Club members on Jun 19. 1929.

Helen Kolb was granted an interlocutory decree of divorce in the N.Y. Supreme Court. Mrs. Kolb alleged statutory offense with an unnamed woman at Broadway hotel, Oct. 7 1929. By July 1930 Florenz had married Alice O'Donnell (b.1900), his fourth wife. In February-March of 1930 they both performed in The Count of Luxembourg on Broadway.

He briefly rejoined Ray Dooley on the East Coast in 1930.

The role with which he was most associated during the thirties was that of the French Ambassador in Of Thee I Sing which opened at the Music Box Theater in December 1931. He toured in the part and played it again at the Imperial in 1933.

    Florenz Ames, Polly Walker, Flight Lieut C.T.P. Ulm, John Moore and Shirley Dale, taken during Lt. Ulm's visit to the Walkers, ca. 1929 [picture] Probably taken in Melbourne/ C.J. Frazer.  Used by permission National Library of Australia 3930944.
Above: Florenz Ames, Polly Walker, Flight Lieut C.T.P. Ulm, John Moore and Shirley Dale, taken during Lt. Ulm's visit to the Walkers, ca. 1929 [picture] Probably taken in Melbourne/ C.J. Frazer. Used by permission National Library of Australia 3930944.


During 1934 and 1935 he toured Australia. Sir Benjamin Fuller's production of The Merry Malones, with Polly Walker re-creating her original Broadway role opened in Melbourne. Amongst others (120!) the cast included Florenz Ames, Alice O'Donnell (his wife), John Moore, Mss. Rene Maxwell, Leal Douglas, Shirley Dale and Bob Caperon. 

He will be remembered for his role as the harassed furniture manufacturer in the George M. Cohan revue I'd Rather be Right (1939) and in Amphitheater roles in 1941, the most popular of which was Colonel Popoff in the Chocolate Soldier.

In 1942 he joined the Boston Comic Opera Company and appeared with the company in a number of Gilbert and Sullivan operas both on Broadway and on tour. In 1944 they were calling themselves The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Co. performing in the Ambassador Theatre.  H.M.S. Pinafore, Trial by Jury and The Mikado proved most popular. The latter was still performed on the road when  Pearl Harbor happened. Baltimore and Washington received the opera passively. However during a tour of the West and mid-West, Pasadena, California, and Des Moines, Iowa refused to allow The Mikado to be presented. This was despite the fact that the company had substituted the word "gangsters" for the word "gentlemen" in the line: "If you want to know who we are, we are gentlemen of Japan."

In 1943 Ames was recorded to lament the decline of American theatre."Remember that lovely theater that used to be across the street from Ford's? It's a garage now." He referred to the Palace. "I played there long ago. But its fate," he added, "may symbolize the future of the American theater. I believe it does."
 

 "Let 'Em Eat Cake" (1933) Musical comedy. William Gaxton, Florenz Ames, Grace Worth. Florenz Ames in Broadway production of "Mr. Big" in New York (1941).
Above left: Let 'Em Eat Cake (1933) Musical comedy. William Gaxton, Florenz Ames, Grace Worth.
Above right: Florenz Ames in Broadway production of Mr. Big in New York (1941).

  Margaret Roy, Florenz Ames, and Robert Pitkin in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Pirates of Penzance" (1943).
Kathleen Roche and Florenz Ames in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Yeoman of the Gard" (1944).
Above left: Margaret Roy, Florenz Ames, and Robert Pitkin in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance (1943).
Above right: Kathleen Roche and Florenz Ames in Gilbert & Sullivan's Yeoman of the Gard (1944).

At the St. James's Theater between 1945 and 1948 Ames enjoyed his longest Broadway run when he succeeded to the role of Andrew Carnes in Oklahoma! His final Broadway role was in a revival of Of Thee I Sing, which ran at the Ziegfeld Theater between May and July 1952 and in which he again essayed the role of the French Ambassador.

From 1950 to 1956, he played the role of Inspector Richard Queen in the first televised version of Ellery Queen, sharing star billing with with Lee Bowman, who played Ellery (below left).


     From 1950 to 1956, Florenz played the role of Inspector Richard Queen in the first televised version of "Ellery Queen", sharing star billing with with Lee Bowman, who played Ellery .
 Florenz Ames appeared in one of the first serialized stories on Walt Disney’s "Mickey Mouse Club", prancing around waving cutlasses as old man Silas Applegate in the Hardy Boys "The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure"
Above left: Florenz as Inspector Richard Queen in the first televised version of Ellery Queen, with Lee Bowman, who played Ellery .
Above right: Florenz Ames in The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure (1956).


From October 1, 1956 Florenz Ames appeared in one of the first serialized stories on Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, prancing around waving cutlasses as old man Silas Applegate in the Hardy Boys' The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure (he also had a brief appearance in the second Hardy Boys serial produced by Disney) (Above right).


 Robert Mitchum, Jan Sterling, Florenz Ames (as Doc Hughes) in the Western "Man with the Gun" (1955).
 Jesse White, Florenz Ames and Frankie Laine in "He Laughed Last" (1956).
Above left: Robert Mitchum, Jan Sterling, Florenz Ames (as Doc Hughes) in the Western Man with the Gun (1955)
Above right:  Jesse White, Florenz Ames and Frankie Laine in He Laughed Last (1956).

 Florenz played Barber in 3 episodes of TV's "Telephone Line" (1956-1957) seen here in 1957 playing opposite Greer Garson.
Florenz as Prof. Anton Gunther in "The Deadly Mantis" (1957).
Above left: Florenz played Barber in 3 episodes of TV's Telephone Line (1956-1957) seen here in 1957 playing opposite Greer Garson.
Above right: Florenz as Prof. Anton Gunther in The Deadly Mantis (1957).


Between 1950 to 1958 he had many other roles in both film and television. Ames appeared alongside some of the biggest names in 1950s Hollywood: Grace Kelly, Robert Mitchum, Barry Sullivan, Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn, Glenn Ford, Greer Garson, Doris Day, to name a few.

When interviewed in July, 1956 Ames was asked about his earlier movie work and his absence from films before his career was reinvigorated. He explained his earlier efforts quite plainly: "I saw myself for a nickel and tried afterwards to get a refund because it was that bad." Ames went on: "The late Sidney Olcott, who directed George M.Cohan and me in 'Seven Keys to Baldpate' used to wander up and down Broadway begging passersby to work in his pictures for five dollars a day and free lunch".

Florenz passed away March 6. 1961 

Thanks to Dale C. Andrews


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References
(1) Encyclopedia of Early Television Crime Fighters - Everett Aaker
(2) Wikipedia.fr

(3) IMDb
(4) IBDB
(5) National Library of Australia: Portrait of Florenz Ames, Polly Walker,
     Charles Ulm, John Moore and Shirley Dale at a theatre, ca. 1929
     Author: C.J. Frazer. Used by Permission
(6) Radiogoldindex


Additional video & audio sources
(1)
Full photomystery The Adventures of Ellery Queen episode:
     The Twilight Zone

(2) The Mystery of the Appelgate Treasure, Video Clip
(3) Facebook pages dedicated to Florenz Ames



This actor profile is a part of the Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above played Richard Queen in an Ellery Queen TV series. Click Uncle Sam if you think you can help out...!  


Page first published on May 16. 2016 
Last updated September 5, 2021 

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