RUDY BOND: Everyman's Actor

Rudy Bond was a character actor. "I've seen that face somewhere before," you might exclaim, catching him on the screen. "I wonder what his name is?" And you'd be in good company. Penny Stallings used the photo, to the left, in the section of her book, "Flesh And Fantasy*", where she shows photos of newcomers to the film industry. (She's focusing on Bronson in this photo.) As you can see by her caption, SHE didn't know who Rudy was when she published her book.
*Copyright 1978 by Penny Stallings, published by St. Martin's Press

He was born October 1, 1912 in Philadelphia, and was a career actor, appearing on stage, screen and television....and he even did a few commercials, such as one for Sanka. And Rudy was my uncle! (Yes, I am proud of it.)

He was well liked by his fellow actors
Three of his best friends were
Marlon Brando, John Ryan and Karl Malden.
Let's read what a few of the people
he's worked with have to say about him:
Elia Kazan: "I liked him enormously, and enjoyed his ebullience."
Karl Malden: "I remember his hearty laugh - big - robust and loud. I loved having him around because he was so full of life and good humor."
Estelle Parsons: "He was a warm, friendly and perceptive man."
Dick Clark: "He was a polished professional, and he made a significant contribution to the film in which we appeared together. He had a villainous role, and he made it work beautifully."
Fred Gwynne: "An absolute pro of an actor! He knew, or seemed to know, everybody in the business."
Paul Newman: "My admiration for Rudy extends to this day. He was a breath of fresh air during rehearsals, and I think his performance was masterful."
Jocelyn Brando: "I remember him as brilliant, with a very salty kind of humor."
Arthur Penn: "Rudy was a very stolid, sure actor. He had a rough, unfinished quality...a no bullshit quality that was so refreshing."
Daniel Petrie: "He was a lovely man, a gifted, spirited actor, very pleasant to work with, highly professional."
Delbert Mann: "Rudy had that ability to seem to be not acting at all, which is the best kind of acting."
John Ryan: "He was a beloved friend of mine. I so much admired him, not only as a person because of his sincerity and integrity, and wonderful good humor when things looked dark - but he was an outstanding actor, and a major character actor in the American theater who, in my judgement, never quite got his due."
Julian Gamble: "The thing that really impressed me about Rudy (there is a different school of acting now, more interesed in how much they get paid), is that he loved being there, he loved acting. He came from the school where the show's the thing. There's nobody like that now. It was a real treat just to be around him."

Pre WWII

Rudy's parents moved from Coatesville to South Philadelphia when he was six years old. He lived with his parents on S. Lawrence St. until he left the city to move to New York.

As a boy, Rudy made money selling newspapers on the streets of Philadelphia. Like most businessmen, he had competition....another boy by the name of Jack Klugman. After realizing there was no reason to compete, they came to an agreement...Rudy would take the corner of 12th and Market, Jack would get 11th and Market. Their respective incomes soared.

This was not the last time the two of them would meet.

For awhile, Rudy was fascinated by the newspapers he was selling, and began to think seriously of making a profession as a reporter. In fact, in his high school yearbook, that was listed as his future career, and he loved to write stories. But even then, he was being drawn to perform.....his hobby was listed as "Singing Through a Megaphone."

He was soon drawn to the amateur theater, a place named the Neighborhood Players. The story goes that he was involved with his community center basketball team, and one day they held a dramatic contest. Rudy entered, did very well, which led him to become a regular at the Neighborhood Players.

And guess who else was drawn there? His fellow newspaper salesman, Jack Klugman! (Their paths would cross many times, throughout their careers. More on this in a bit.)

The Neighborhood Players was a wonderful place to be in the thirties, and under the able direction of Julie Sutton, Rudy's love of acting blossomed...as well as his talent.

Love blossomed there, too. He met the woman there who would one day be his wife, a young actress named Alma. Alma continued to act during, and after, WWII. (I just found a cast list for a production of "I Remember Mama" by The Kalamzoo Civic Players....Alma played the role of Katrin.) Eventually, Alma left show business to the man she loved (she and Rudy were married Feb. 1, 1948), and went on to become a successful psychiatrist.

At the Neighborhood Players, Rudy's performance was almost always given wonderful newspaper reviews. For example, when he played The Atheist in "Within The Gates", Wm. Bunker wrote that Rudy "made a lasting impression," and Mr. Bunker thought that Rudy's portrayal of Radius in "R.U.R." was "dramatically effective." He foreshadowed some of the roles he would later play masterfully in movies when he WAS the political boss in "Recount". Some of the other performances that received wonderful reviews included: Willie Maurrant in "Street Scene"; Fidel Duran in "Sunday Costs Five Pesos" (don't you just love that name?); Geert in "The Good Hope"; Freiberg in "Spring Song"; and Anselmo in "Tooth Or Shave".

This is a scene from
a Neighborhood Players
production of
Thorton Wilder's
"The Happy Journey to
Camden and Trenton"
.
The actress with Rudy
is Ann Israelitan.
(Is it my imagination...
or does Rudy, here,
resemble Tim Curry?)

<p>
The War Years
World War II cut really deeply into the Neighborhood Players.....at one point, 23 regular members were overseas. And of course, one of these was Rudy Bond.

As you might imagine, Rudy's theatrical career was put on hold while he was in the 691st Tank destroyer Battalion, 94th Infantry Division, fighting in Northern France and Germany. But something happened, after only a little over a year of active duty, which not only changed the direction of his military career, but also his whole life.

In October 1943, he was sitting on a bunk in his barracks, and one of his friends was beginning to clean his gun. Unfortunately, the gun was loaded, and Rudy was shot through the right side of his chest.

He was shipped back to the states for treatment.

After this, he was promoted to the rank of Tec 5-Entertainment Specialist, and I think it was during this period that he solidified his decision to become a professional actor. On his separation papers later, his job was described thusly: "Planned, organized and directed entertainment programs using military talent. Made all preparations for USO shows and when necessary, participated. Was also a motion picture projectionist. Helped in various ways in putting as much entertainment before the men as possible for morale purposes."

After the war, his first job was touring with the USO for nine months. They went to Japan, Korea, and then to the Philippines. It was here that he first began to realize the full impact that that wound had on his life. Rudy wrote of this experience, "My job was to be an assistant stage manager and I had two lines in the play. My job was to help set up scenery. It was kind of rough, because every time I would go to move anything, this arm would give me trouble." In addition to that pain, he also suffered an attack of chest pain, and was treated for a week in the hospital.

The damage from the wound would never completely heal. He would have trouble with that arm, and that part of his chest, for the rest of his life. But no matter how bad the pain, it didn't keep him from performing.

The Big Break

After the USO, he heard of the John Golden Auditions, being held at the Beck Theater in New York. (Golden, who once worked on a New York stage for 25 cents a performance, began the auditions, as he put it, "to help the acting kids get a break". Otherwise, some of the worthy would-be performers couldn't even get to talk to a director or producer on the phone.) Actors would perform for four minutes before a group of judges, and the winners would receive the coveted John Golden Award, which included "The John Golden Audition Degree". Those who received this degree would be given an audience (when they were casting) before some of the most respected producers in the industry, including George Abbott, Kermit Bloomgarden, Jose Ferrer, Oscar Hammerstein, Billy Rose, Michael Todd.

That year (1947), 1381 contestants performed before a panel of rather intimidating judges including Lynn Fontanne, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Sam Jaffe, David Burton and Philip Loeb. By the time they reached the finals, on June 26, there were only 30 competitors. And in the end, Rudy's final performance (he had chosen a scene Humphrey Bogart had done in the movie, "Dead End")....the acting that made him one of the dozen winners....was witnessed by Director Elia Kazan. (Rudy was one of only 10 winners of the award that year.)

Elia invited Rudy to be a student at the Actors Studio....although at that time it had not been officially named that yet. (In fact, Rudy may have very well been the first student the Studio admitted!)

This was indeed an honor, as very few were invited. To give you an idea of how discriminating....David Garfield writes, in "A Player's Place; The Story of The Actors Studio", "Between the fall of 1948 and the spring of 1951 alone, over two thousand performers auditioned. Of these, thirty or so were accepted, putting the total membership in the fall of 1951 at approximately eighty-five members."

The first meeting of The Actors Studio was held at 8:00 pm on October 5, 1947, in a room above the Old Labor Stage (Broadway & W. 29th St.) in New York. It must have been extremely exciting for Rudy, and all of the new members; greeting them at the door was the celebrated John Garfield, and some of those attending the first meeting included Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.

In any event, Rudy was a part of the very first beginner's class at the Actors Studio, taught by Kazan himself. The class, every Tuesday and Thursday, contained a total of 26 students. Rudy's classmates included: Tom Avera, Edward Binns, Dorothy Bird, Jocelyn Brando, Joan Copeland, Betsy Drake, Annette Erlanger, Lou Gilbert, Don Hanmer, Julie Harris, Anne Hegira, Steven Hill, Peg Hillias, Jennifer Howard, Robin Humphrey, Alicia Krug, Cloris Leachman, Michael Lewin, Pat McClarney, Nehemiah Persoff, Lenka Peterson, Warren Stevens, Joe Sullivan, John Sylvester and James Whitmore. Before the first season was over, the class also included Martin Balsam, Kim Hunter and Vivian Nathan. Rudy would work with many of his fellow classmates throughout his career.

There was also a more advanced class started at that time and taught by Robert Lewis. Some of the members of this class included Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Tom Ewell, John Forsythe, Anne Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Karl Malden, E.G. Marshall, Patricia Neal, Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach and David Wayne. Rudy would also work with a number of these performers as well. Rudy's friendship with Marlon Brando started here, and grew into a deep and lasting one.

In these classes, Rudy honed his acting skills, becoming very involved with "The Method." And when Lee Strasberg came to the Actors Studio, Rudy learned a great deal from him as well.

Two other Actors Studio members that Rudy worked with (either at the Studio or in later professional performances) were Paul Newman and James Dean.

This is a shot of a class at the Actor's Studio. That's Paul Newman, in the center. Daniel Petrie, the director, is the third down from Mr. Newman. Rudy is in the back row, third from the left. The actor Michael Strong is beside Rudy. And I think that's Lee Strasberg there in the front row, bald head and glasses.

Later that year, Kazan cast Rudy in the role of Steve Hubbel in Tennessee Williams' play "A Streetcar Named Desire", and that was his big break. During its first year in New York, the play won The Pulitzer Prize, The Donaldson Award, and the New York Drama Critics Award. (He later played the same role in the motion picture.)

Here are Rudy and Marlon,
chatting and clowning around
during a 'Streetcar' cast party.

And here they are,
enjoying the food
at the same cast party.
I wonder why Rudy is smiling?

Click on this copy of the new US postage stamp

to find out much, much more about
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
including some great photos.

At the bottom of this page, I have info on a book Rudy wrote about his experiences in Streetcar. Let me know if you want more info!

Of course, you have seen "A Streetcar Named Desire", especially if you are a Brando fan. But did you know that Rudy was in two other productions with Brando, "On The Waterfront", and "The Godfather"? Each is a classic in its own right.

Rudy's Resume

Rudy appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway, theaters around the country, in motion pictures, and on televison.

Remember how I said Rudy's path would cross Jack Klugman's many times? A few of these include the time Rudy and Jack were both in the movie, "Twelve Angry Men"; Rudy and Jack in a production of the play, "Golden Boy" at the ANTA Playhouse; and according to Jack, a few television shows, as well.

Click on one of these pictures to see the most complete list of Rudy's professional performances:

Theater Motion Pictures

Television

There are a few websites that list several of his appearances. The ones I like the best are:

TV Guide online . . . Internet Movie Database . . .
More Photos
If you would like to see some additional photos of Rudy, and some of his family, just go through this Actors Studio doorway into the
RUDY BOND PHOTO GALLERY

Taxi! Taxi!

Sometimes, between engagements, Rudy would drive a taxi cab. He was driving cab one evening while the movie "12 Angry Men" (Rudy played the Judge in that film) was playing at the Capital Theatre, and had occasion to pick up a couple out front who had just come from the show. Naturally, the passengers were discussing the movie they had just watched. Rudy turned around and asked them, "How'd you like me in the picture?" Well, the passengers looked at Rudy, looked at each other, and Rudy heard one of them whisper "Let's get out of here --- this guy is nuts."

In His Blood

Rudy lived and breathed Show Business. He was a member of AEA, AFTRA, SAG (and the DAV.)

In his later years, he sometimes taught acting. Adam Arkin, for example, was one of Rudy's students at Hagan Berghof Studio, where Rudy taught "Technique & Scene Study....the development of a role from beginning to its fruition." (From the HB Studios course guide for June 1970.)

Rudy was an actor. It was not just a career with him...it defined who and what he was. Everyone I've spoken with has told me that Rudy never appeared to be acting...that he WAS the part. And everyone also has fond memories of Rudolph Bond.

Passage
He passed away on March 29, 1982, age 69 years, 5 months and 28 days. He was walking to the opening night performance of a play he was to star in, in Denver, Colorado ("What The Babe Said")....and he died right outside the door to the theater. What an exit for an actor, eh?

Trying To Find...

I am trying to get in touch with several people who have worked with Rudy at some point during his career. If you'd like to see who, go to my Trying To Contact... page.

Rudy's Family

Rudy married Alma Halbert while he was acting in A Streetcar Named Desire. Alma later went on to become a very successful psychotherapist.

Alma has written seven excellent books. You can read about them, and find out more about Alma, by going to the Alma Bond, PhD page. Rudy and Alma had three children.

The oldest, Zane P. Bond, was named after the same uncle that I was (Zane Halbert.) He has also written several books, and is a crusader for the rights of individuals with mental illness. You can read about him by going to the Zane P. Bond page. You can read about one of his books, called A Prophet Operating at a Loss by clicking on the title, and he has recently started a website about the Bond family called The Writing Bonds.

His younger siblings, fraternal twins, are Janet and Jonathan.

Jonathan is a founding partner of one of the country's hottest ad agencies, Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, and the two of them have written a very successful book. You can read about him by going to the Jonathan Bond page..

Rudy Bond, Author
Now, I'd like to introduce you to a book written by Rudy
that has just been published by Birch Brook Press of Delhi, New York.

"I RODE A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE"

I RODE A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is a book by the late actor, Rudy Bond, about his experiences in the part of Steve Hubbel in the Broadway company of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Bond tells the story of the production from his first anxious reading, through rehearsals of the play, to the opening night. He tells behind-the-scenes stories about the casting of the play (for example, the producer, Irene Selznick, wanted John Garfield instead of Marlon Brando to play the part of Stanley Kowalski, and was ready to fire him), how the production developed, the foibles of working with Brando and Jessica Tandy, and being on the road with the prestigious actors and the bashful Tennessee Williams. The book culminates with the final anxiety-fraught Broadway opening of the play.

The book abounds with anecdotes like the one about Rudy's introduction to the famed playwright, who said, "My name is Tennessee Williams. What's yours?" "Pennsylvania Rudy," he responded to a gale of laughter.

When Rudy first told his mother he was going to work in "Streetcar," she said, "Good, you are going to be a conductor on a trolley car."

Rudy describes himself and Brando at the first rehearsal. "Marlon and I were on the edge of the crowd. We were a couple of harmonicas trying to fit into a symphony orchestra. Marlon in his tee-shirt, and me in my army fatigues, could be cast as the original hippies."

Marlon's approach to reading was to search, investigate, ponder and resist coming to any results. He was unconventional, odd, and strange in his approach. He had them all guessing. When Rudy came home from the first reading, his wife asked him how Marlon had performed. Rudy answered, "He has a lot to learn."

During the reading, Rudy "likened Jessy to a violin that played mostly highnotes. Marlon as a drum, grunting with his tongue at the top of his mouth. Karl (Malden) was a guitar, striving to keep his boiling energy in check, and Kim (Hunter) as a harp, fighting to avoid the cliche stamp of an ingenue.

The two stars had completely different styles of acting, Jessica Tandy with her British background contrasting sharply with Marlon's natural delivery. Jessica's reading was much more finished, and Rudy felt sorry for Marlon. At the curtain call of the first performance, Jessica brought down the house, while Marlon received an obligatory smattering of applause. But as the performances continued, Marlon kept on improving, while Jessica remained the same. By the end of the run, he was receiving ten times the applause she was.

The book is exciting, imformative and beautifully written. It should find a market in lovers of the theatere, Brando admirers, and those who wish to know about the history of the top Broadway hit of the century.

Here are what some people are saying about this book:

"Rudy Bond's memories leading up to STREETCAR'S opening night are filled with an aspiring actor's dreams, fears, hopes, contradictions, longings and desires! And bless his heart, he's allowed room for humor as well! I found it fascinating to read." Kim Hunter

In reading his book, "I could hear Rudy's voice and his laugh, even his grunt. I liked Rudy very much, and the book brought back very pleasant memories..." Elia Kazan

Rudy's book "took me back to those wonderful days of hope and respect for the career we all chose." Reading his book, "I laughted a lot...he has written a bood book." Karl Malden.

The book retails for $16.95. If you would like to order a copy of "I Rode A Streetcar Named Desire", contact the publisher:

Birch Brook Press
PO Box 81
Delhi, NY 13753
Phone: (212) 353-3326
Fax: (607) 746-7453

send them an e-mail:
birchbrk@prodigy.net

or go to their website:
Birch Brook Press.


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