George E. Stone in a photo courtesy of Mary Mallory.
Velvet Smith, Sparrow, Slinky, Dippy, Johnnie the Shark, Spats, Tough Tony, Ropes, McGonigle, Toothpick Charlie: just a few of the wise guy characters that made diminutive character actor George E. Stone famous. Though actually Jewish, the sharp-dressed Stone is more remembered for playing flashy Italian street toughs than the many ethnic characters he portrayed in films. While similar in many ways to most of the characters he played on screen, the likable actor suffered more emotional hardship than many film characters.
Born Gerschon Lichtenstein May 18, 1900 (or possibly 1902 or 1903), in Lodz, Poland, young Georgie Stone and his family struggled, so much so that the young lad began working in a silk factory at the age of six, at least per New Movie Magazine in 1935. On his way home one day, he saw fellow Jews slaughtered in a front of his eyes, and played dead to escape the pogrom. The family was smuggled into Germany on a hay wagon, with his father coming to America to make a living and support the family. Mother and children were supposedly turned away twice at Ellis Island because of one of the girl’s eye infection, before entering the country in 1912. The children’s mother had died before they arrived, and their new stepmother detested them, so Stone ran away from home. Stone became a naturalized citizen August 17, 1915, in New York City, living at 231 W. 96th St.
Mary Mallory’s “Hollywood land: Tales Lost and Found” is available for the Kindle.