George Karl Wentzlaff was born on May 3, 1946 in Los Angeles, California. He took (or was given) the stage name George Winslow and was billed as George “Foghorn” Winslow is several of the feature films he appeared in during the 1950s. Films, I might add, in which he often took the spotlight away from the likes of Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe. No matter how small the part or whether it was just one scene in which he appeared, George was always memorable. He is my favorite child in film.
Although George Winslow is probably best remembered for his (undeniably) unique raspy voice, hence the “Foghorn” moniker, he also had a wonderful, deadpan delivery and demeanor that baffled the adults he played against in his movies, a fact that remains endlessly entertaining.
I chose George Winslow as the topic of this post, which is my contribution to the Children in Films blogathon hosted by Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood, primarily because I love watching him in movies. However, I was also interested in learning all about him and his life, but I found nothing. Long searches yielded no information, no trivia or behind-the-scenes snippets I could latch onto. So, I had no choice but to make this solely a retrospective of George’s career, which lasted a total of six years during which he appeared in ten feature films.
George Winslow made his feature film debut in 1952 with Norman Taurog’s, Room for One More in which he co-stars with Cary Grant and Betsy Drake (who were married at the time). The story goes that Cary Grant had seen the 6-year-old George on Art Linkletter’s, “People Are Funny” television show and found him so amusing that he recommended the child for the role of Teenie, the youngest member of the Rose family in Room for One More.
Room for One More is based on the true story of a big-hearted couple who have their hands full with three children of their own yet can’t help but take in two troubled orphans as foster children. The film is a fun and heart-warming family story, replete with tantrums, misadventures and heart. But the standouts, not surprisingly, are Mr. Grant and Mr. Winslow whose scenes together are my favorites.
Also in 1952, George appeared, albeit in a much smaller role, in Howard Hawks’, Monkey Business. His role as “Little Indian” required he again play opposite Cary Grant in their second and last film together.
Following is a scene from Monkey Business featuring George as the Little Indian. No doubt you’ll recognize the distinct voice…“Ya gotta do a war dance first” – but if I may add that besides the voice, note his tone – an adult one to a degree – that distinguishes his talent above everyone else’s in the scene. He is so noteworthy because his delivery is superb – a child playing on par with adults. What was it that W. C. Fields said? It would certainly pertain to the likes of George Winslow.
Winslow’s third picture in 1952 was to be his only starring role, as Gus Jennings in Robert Parrish’s, My Pal Gus. Just as I would do for Room for One More, I’d categorize My Pal Gus as a dramedy but with less heart…and no Cary Grant. This film is about a successful business man (workaholic), Dave Jennings (played by Richard Widmark) who can’t control his (brat) son (Winslow) so he puts the boy in a progressive school. The teacher at the school (played by Joanne Dru) improves the boy’s behavior and becomes romantically involved with the father. Some other complications ensue and ultimately My Pal Gus is fun to watch. But it’s mostly standard fare. Again here, the best part of the movie is George Winslow.
Winslow’s next film feature is by far the most popular and my favorite of his roles – as Henry Spofford, III in Howard Hawks’, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). This film also, by the way, features my favorite Marilyn Monroe performance. Her comedic talents are in full bloom in her depiction of Lorelei Lee, the gold-digging blonde bombshell. And George Winslow steals scenes from her. No joke!
Behind the scenes – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
After Blondes, George co-starred – in another meaty role – with Clifton Webb and Edmund Gwenn in Henry Levin’s, Mister Scoutmaster (1953). This is the one George Winslow film I hadn’t seen prior to choosing him as the subject for this blogathon. I enjoyed it. Scoutmaster is light-hearted fare, not quite as heart-warming as are his first two films, but Mr. Winslow is quite good in this. Again, he steals almost every scene he’s in and plays well opposite the pompous Clifton Webb.
Mister Scoutmaster is about a snobbish television star (Webb) whose show is losing young viewers so he decides to become a Scoutmaster in hopes of getting to know his audience. Young Winslow, billed in this and his next two movies as George “Foghorn” Winslow, plays Mike, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who longs to have a normal life with a normal family and does so through the Boy Scouts and the new Scoutmaster.
In Oscar Rudolph’s, The Rocket Man (1954), George Winslow’s next film, he plays Timmy, a boy who comes into possession of a ray gun that compels anyone caught in its beam to tell the truth. There are many complications in this somewhat silly romp, which has the requisite heart-tug involving an orphanage, but this one is a great example of the cast far outweighing the story as far as ‘watchability’ goes. Aside from George Winslow who, again has several memorable moments in the movie, Rocket Man also stars comedy greats Charles Coburn and Spring Byington, two actors I can watch in anything.
Following is the theatrical trailer for The Rocket Man:
You might note that George Winslow is hailed as “Marilyn Monroe’s favorite boyfriend” at the beginning of this as an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but note also that he is clearly marketed as the star of this film alongside a pretty impressive cast.
In 1955 George Winslow starred is what is (arguably) his last “good” movie with Frank Tashlin’s musical comedy, Artists and Models, which stars Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, (newcomer) Shirley MacLaine, Dorothy Malone and other notables. Winslow plays a small, but memorable role here, which – in a real sense – marks the beginning of the end of his acting career. If one considers marketing important in show business then the fact he’s not even mentioned in the film’s trailer is a clue.
He made his last appearance in a feature film in Charles F. Haas’, Wild Heritage in 1958 playing Talbot Breslin, one of three Breslin sons in a Western about a family who crosses the plains and encounters lawlessness and values along the way.
George Winslow retired from acting in the late 1950s after making guest appearances and a few recurring roles on television shows like “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett” and “Blondie.” He resorted back to his birth name and, by all accounts, is living happily in California.
I read in many places that as the distinct voice that got him attention grew into a common voice as the actor matured, George Winslow had little choice but to step away from the screen. Roles didn’t come to one who sounded like all the others. Although it may well be that Mr. Wentzlaff was perfectly happy leaving the limelight (I sure hope so), still I’m saddened for us. His was a great talent aside from the voice. This child in films had an adult’s sensibility, an adult’s comedic timing and great screen presence. A cool character, I’d like to think some great roles were waiting for him down the road. But, I’ll have to be satisfied with the few roles he did do in the few films I’m always happy to stop and watch whenever I see they’re on.
For Children in Films this is the short, but stellar career of the boy Winslow.
As mentioned above, this post is my contribution to the Children in Films blogathon hosted by the uber-talented Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood. Please visit her site for many more posts dedicated to other memorable Children in Films.