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


 

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 - ?)
 

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. 

Young Florenz Ames, date unknownAmes’ first stage appearance occurred in Rochester in 1913 in the chorus of The Good Old Summer Time. His first prominent role was when he opened at the Cohan and Harris Theater, Broadway on June 7, 1917 in Hitchy-Koo.

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 'Kolb and Harland' they 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.

Florenz Kolb and Adelaide Harland as billed in the Orpheum Theater San Francisco, 1913Florenz Ames and Adelaide Winthrop, in Alice in Blunderland (Jan, 1921) which headlines the New Orpheum Bill

After his wife died Ames reappeared on Broadway in Lady Butterfly (1923).

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

During 1934 and 1935 he toured Australia. 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.  

Let 'Em Eat Cake (1933) Musical comedy. William Gaxton, Florenz Ames, Grace Worth Florenz Ames in Broadway production of Mr. Big, 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)

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 .

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

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).

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)
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)

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 page
(4) IMdB page with Broadway appearences
(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


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


Page first published on May 16. 2016 
Last updated November 1, 2016 

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