Ethnic bald-domed character actor Luis Van Rooten was born November 29, 1906, in Mexico City, but raised in the United States and would become known in post-war Hollywood as a specialist in multiple dialects. Studying at the University of Pennsylvania, he received his B.A. and set up a sturdy practice as an architect before making a dramatic transition into acting sometime during WWII. He built up his reputation initially on stage at the Cleveland Playhouse, then in radio serials, notably playing the titular sleuth in “The Adventures of Nero Wolfe.” He also did special French, Italian and Spanish broadcasts during the war
After serving in the Armed Forces, he settled into post-war films, playing outright villains or slick, shady suspects. Interestingly, he bookended his film career impersonating the nefarious Nazi ringleader Heinrich Himmeler (1900-1945), who organized the extermination of millions of Jews during the Third Reich, in the films Hitler’s Madman (1943) and Operation Eichmann (1961). In between he backed up the various studio’s top stars including Alan Ladd in the rugged adventures Two Years Before the Mast (1946), Beyond Glory (1948) and Saigon (1947); Ray Milland and Charles Laughton in the exceptional film noir The Big Clock (1948);, Edward G. Robinson in Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) and Kirk Douglas in “Champion” (1949). One notable exception from the usual villainous typecast was his role as a plainclothes cop in the classic film Detective Story (1951).
By the 1950’s Van Rooten had moved with ease into TV drama, performing in a number of live dramas during its vital “Golden Age.” His regular work in TV series included One Man’s Family (1949) and _”Major Dell Conway of the Flying Tigers” (1951)._ He is remembered by 50s TV fans as the fight manager in “The Joe Palooka Story”(1954-55). His slick, cultivated tones were utilized quite frequently in various documentaries and narrative projects. In later years (the 1960s), Van Rooten was seen less and less. He eventually retired during the decade to become an author and expert on horticultural subjects. He also enjoyed painting as a creative sideline. He died in 1973 at the age of 66 of unreported causes in Massachusetts.