Burt Mustin: Failed engineer, car salesman and Hollywood icon

Burt Mustin and Queenie Smith, 1971. NBC publicity photo, Creative Commons

Burt Mustin and Queenie Smith, 1971. NBC publicity photo, Creative Commons

Burt Mustin didn’t become a screen actor until he was 67. But  Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece, over the ensuing 22 years Mustin became one of the busiest bit players in Hollywood. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column: “They Went That-a-way”: Burt Mustin:

I just knew I had to interview Burt Mustin when he walked into the newspaper office in June 1973 and told the receptionist he was “the best they-went-that-a-way” actor working in Hollywood. Work had stopped in the film capital because of a screenwriters’ strike. So Mustin was taking a short vacation in Canada, dropping into newspapers unannounced, and telling his story to any reporter who wanted to listen.

I wanted to listen. Mustin was 89 years old then and undoubtedly had a good story to tell. How did it all get started for him?

“I like to say I’ve been a professional since I was six and an inebriated gentleman heard me singing on my way home from kindergarten, took me into Morlein’s saloon to sing for the crowd, and I went home after dark with pockets full of money and got a licking for it.”

He was kidding, of course …  log in to read “They Went That-a-way”: Burt Mustin (subscription*).

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