got me to wondering whether Sig Ruman,
the Nazi/Physician specialist,
ever, in his long career, got to
hang up a “Mad Doctor” shingle.
My mind, naturally enough, then wandered over
into memories of the “Character Actor Books”
–quite popular in the 1960s and 1970s-
and the solicited contributions
- his own personal writings, clippings, and photos-
that Ruman made to one of them.
HOLLYWOOD MOTION PICTURE REVIEW
November 30, 1940
SIG RUMANN By Joe Pearson
It's a tribute to Sig Rumann's acting prowess that, on the screen, he
portrays villainous "heavies" with such remarkable finesse that audiences sometimes
forget he is merely an actor enacting a role and audibly hiss and express
their opinions of him. For, off the screen, the lovable, human and understanding
Sig is one of the best liked and most intelligent personalities in Hollywood.
The ever busy Sig, whose more recent screen appearances include leading
Character roles in "Victory", "Bittersweet", Comrade X", "Flotsam" and
"Carnival", was born in Hamburg, Germany. Upon his graduation from high school,
he was sent to college in Ilmenau in Thuringia, to study electro-technology, as
his mother felt he should have a trade by which he could make his living should
he not make a success as an actor.
After a year in Ilmenau, spent in practical training, he returned to Hamburg
and studied for the stage. Eleven months intensive work under leading German
instructors followed. This included speaking, dancing, singing, fencing and
active rehearsal of many classic and modern roles under a theatre director.
He made his debut in very minor roles in Bielefeld, Germany. Instead of
the usual two years required of an apprentice player in the German theatres of
those days, he passed this period within one season. Next he went to Stettin
and after that to the Kaiser's own theatre, the Stadt, in Kiel, where he was
the leading character comedian as well as the director of the operetta productions.
Rumann was in Kiel five season. He received salary throughout the
entire year with a four-week holiday, as was the custom of the German theatres
of pre-war days. He played many roles in drama, comedy, operetta and even in
grand opera when there was a speaking, non-singing character. Though he had
passed the service age when the war broke out, he joined the Saxon heavy
artillery, became a lieutenant and was assigned to the intelligence department
in prison camps. It was there he met the two American officers who later helped
him to America.
Following the war he played prominent stage roles for a year. Because
vaudeville paid much better then, he became master of ceremonies in a cabaret
in Leipzig. One night the two American officers came to the Leipzig cabaret,
recognized Rumann, and through their assistance he obtained a visa and came to
When he reached New York, Tilly Durieux was about to appear in the Messrs.
Shubert ‘ s production of Sardou’ s "Fedora" in German. Rumann was engaged for this
Play and then for Irene Triesch's cycle of Ibsen dramas, acting Dr. Rank in
"A Doll's House" and Tesmann in "Hedda Gabler" with her. For a short time he
Was master of ceremonies in a German cabaret on Eighty-fourth street. New York,
but not as the traditional singing waiter he was reported to be. The only times
he has lifted a stein or hamburger steak have been when he himself was the
Following he joined the Irving Place company for a season of German
operetta and there George Jessel saw him and offered him a part in "War Song",
his first English role. Arthur Hopkins then engaged him for the role of Lieutenant
Engel in "The Channel Road;" Next he appeared in Sidney Howard ‘s
For more than a year he acted Preysing in "Grand Hotel." Miss Cornell
later engaged him for Brandt in Sidney Howard's play "Alien Corn," which was
followed by a tour with Ethel Barrymore in "An Amazing Career". After that
came Hollywood and he's been kept almost constantly busy appearing in pictures
ever since. The many pictures in which he has appeared are too numerous to
list here. However, it can safely be said, that regardless of how large or how
small his role, he has never failed to turn in a first rate characterization, and
has, in every instance, added immeasurably to the picture's entertainment
Sig lives with his mother in a large house in Brentwood. What time he
can find from his many film chores, he devotes to his hobby which is of great
importance to the entire scientific world. For, as one of America's leading
microscopists, Sig is co-author of treatises on genetics and is one of the few
men who can take a snapshot of a chromosome and get anything more than a blur.
A chromosome is a particle of living matter so small, that, as Sig explained,
45,000 of them could hold a banquet on a human hair - and not bump elbows.
Rumann works with Dr. Carl C. Lindegren of the University of California
in original research in genetics, but the university pays none of Sig's expenses.
He pays them himself. In his huge laboratory, where he makes movies of germs
with some of the most powerful microscopes on the West Coast, there is no
white-tiled regimentation, no rules, no regulations. He can play Germanic waltzes
on an automatic phonograph while he tinkers with photographic film, or he can puff
a cigar while he works with microscopes, and he can sprawl into an easy chair
whenever he gets tired looking at his invisible playmates.
In the scientific journals under the Rumann-Lindegren imprint is entitled
“The Chromosomes of Neurospora." The article begins: "In the zygote nucleus is
formed in the young ascus by the fusion of two haploid nuclei."
Rumann said this indicated merely that he and Dr. Lindegren are making a
study of the chromosomes of pink bread mold. "We’re doing that because its
structure is relatively simple," he said. "The chromosomes are what give people
and things, from men to monkeys to mistletoe, their characteristics. A far-off
dream of the future is that if we can get a better understanding of the chromosomes
that make up human nature, theoretically we can produce boys who will
become great engineers and girls who will become superb actresses."
Rumann's movie salary is in the four figure weekly bracket. That's more
than enough to keep him and his germs in comfortable fashion and to make possible
his contribution to the world's scientific knowledge. It also keeps his larder
stocked with some of the finest groceries and pleasantest Rhine wine.
"It's the kind of life I've always dreamed about," Rumann said. "I think
America is the finest of all countries and this is the finest part of America.
I am happy. I can ask for no more."