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C Entries
Edward L. Cahn
James Cameron
Lewis John Carlino
Richard Carlson
John Carradine
Helena Bonham Carter
Leo G. Carroll
Maurice Cass
Lon Chaney
Lon Chaney, Jr.
John Cho
Arthur C. Clarke
Phyllis Coates
Joan Collins
Sir Sean Connery
Roger Corman
Buster Crabbe
Richard Crane
Tom Cruise
Peter Cushing
 
CASS, MAURICE
(1884–1954). Lithuanian actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Ali Baba Goes to Town (David BUTLER 1937); The Magician's Daughter (short) (Felix E. Faust 1938); Wonder Man (uncredited) (H. Bruce Humberstone 1945); Angel on My Shoulder (Archie Mayo 1946); Spook Busters (William BEAUDINE 1946); The Catman of Paris (Lesley Selander 1946); "Mystery of the Broken Statues" (1952), "The Defeat of Superman" (1953), episodes of The Adventures of Superman; Francis Covers the Big Town (uncredited) (Arthur LUBIN 1953); "The Moon or Bust" (1954), episode of The Mickey Rooney Show; Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (tv series) (1954).
 
His picture, of course, appears in Warren B. Meyers's Who Is That?: The Late Late Viewer's Guide to the Old Old Movie Players (1967)  as one of the many faces that filmgoers will inevitably recognize without recalling their names. A frail, balding man with a halo of longish white hair, Maurice Cass was fated to a career of stereotypical roles, an ideal choice to play a stuffy old dean, kindly grandfather, or absent-minded professor—and that, naturally, led him into the world of science fiction films.

He was born in 1884 in the region that is now Lithuania, and one can be reasonably sure that the name on his birth certificate was not "Maurice Cass." But his original name, and other details about his upbringing in Europe, may forever remain unknown. As a young man, he emigrated to America and was soon making a living as an actor on Broadway, first appearing as a mayor in a 1913 play and demonstrating, even at the age of twenty-nine, that he would always be destined to portray older authority figures. After two decades of supporting appearances on stage that he presumably found unsatisfying, he migrated to Hollywood in the early 1930s to begin a long series of supporting appearances on film that were probably just as unsatisfying, but more remunerative.

Cass's two decades of film work were mostly a matter of tiny, often uncredited roles—among many such appearances, you do not remember him as the handwriting expert in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), or the psychiatrist in Sorrowful Jones (1949)—though he garnered a rare starring role in a 1938 short, The Magician's Daughter, as a friendly stage magician, and credibly handled minor parts in the minor horror films Spook Busters and Catman of Paris. But while such work paid his bills, Cass was visibly failing to make a name for himself, and like almost everyone who enters the profession, he undoubtedly still harbored implausible dreams about becoming a big star, even as he approached the age of retirement, and even as his career continued to consist of roles involving one day on the set, delivering a few lines.

What made Cass's dreams come true—to a very limited extent—was the new medium of television, which in the early 1950s began to offer many stimulating opportunities to reliable veterans of the industry, rescuing Cass from complete obscurity and elevating him to the status of relative obscurity. One venue where Cass's talents were appreciated was The Adventures of Superman, and while there was nothing remarkable about his turn as a shop owner in "Mystery of the Broken Statues," he brought unusual enthusiasm to a rare role as a villain, the sinister scientist Meldini in "The Defeat of Superman," who devises a form of artificial kryptonite to bring down George REEVES's Man of Steel. He was also effective as Mickey Rooney's old chemistry teacher in an episode of The Mickey Rooney Show, inadvertently providing his former student with a powerful explosive to propel his planned rocket to the Moon. But his career reached its modest peak when he finally earned, at the age of sixty-nine, his first regular role in a television series as Professor Newton in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, elderly mentor to the adventurous pilot and his crewmates. It isn't saying much, perhaps, but he was manifestly the series' best actor, and its most commanding presence, as he effortlessly dominated all of the episodes he appeared in, cheerfully expounding inane science to the other explorers of space.

Unfortunately, after years of workdays that only required an hour or so of preparing for and filming one scene, Cass was perhaps unprepared for a regimen of all-day acting in a series that was rapidly filming thirty-nine episodes in a few months, and he died of a heart attack while the series' single season was still filming. It would be nice to report that the producers, seeking to pay tribute to this unheralded yeoman of cinema, made use of leftover footage to devise a special episode in which Professor Newton died an heroic death, saving the galaxy from evildoers, but the reality they faced was that scripts had already been written, and episodes needed to be completed immediately, so they instead brought in a lesser actor to play a "Professor Mayberry" who replaced Newton without any explanation in the final episodes. Perhaps youthful fans at the time never noticed the difference, but as Maurice Cass surely could not have anticipated, certain older viewers who later discovered the series would lament his absence.

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