Bobby Mauch

'Prince and the Pauper' child star


Robert Joseph Mauch, actor and film editor: born Peoria, Illinois 6 July 1921; married; died 15 October 2007.

Bobby Mauch, the actor and film editor, was one of a pair of identical twins, Billy and Bobby Mauch (pronounced "Mawk"), who starred in a distinguished version of the Mark Twain classic The Prince and the Pauper in 1937. The spirited pair were so completely alike that they were often able to take each other's place without revealing their true identity.

The sons of a railroad agent, Robert and his brother William were born in Peoria, Illinois in 1921 – Billy, who died in September 2006, was the older by 10 minutes. Their mother, soon aware of the possibilities available to her personable progeny, taught them to dance before they started school. From the age of three they performed at private parties, and by the time they were seven they were modelling and acting on radio, gaining early exposure on NBC's Sunday morning amateur hour for children Coast-to-Coast on a Bus and Let's Pretend, a drama series for children which also nurtured the talents of the future teenage stars Jimmy Lydon and Billy Halop.

Warner Bros had been looking for a young boy who looked enough like Fredric March to play the actor as a youth in Anthony Adverse, and the twins fitted the bill. Initially, Billy was signed to play Anthony, with Bobby hired as his stand-in, but after the film's completion they confessed to the director Mervyn LeRoy that they had been taking turns at playing the role, confident that no one would know. Their mother stated that she could tell them apart when they were awake, but that even she could not tell which was which when they were sleeping – the only major difference between them was that Bobby was right-handed and Billy left-handed, and Billy wore glasses for reading.

The pair allegedly shared the next role in which Billy was cast, as a drummer boy befriended by Florence Nightingale (Kay Francis) in the Crimea in William Dieterle's The White Angel (1936). Warners then offered Billy a contract, but their formidable mother told the studio that if one of the boys was a stand-in for the other it would give him an inferiority complex, and that if only Billy were signed, she would take Bobby to a rival studio.

The boys were both given performer contracts, with Mrs Mauch hired as their guardian, and when a vehicle was sought to showcase the twins, a prime choice was The Prince and the Pauper, which had last been filmed as a silent starring Marguerite Clark in both the title roles in 1915. The story of two boys, one the son of Henry the Eighth and the other the son of a pickpocket, whose identities are switched, it seemed a shrewd project to release in the year of the Coronation in Britain, since the film concludes with a lavish crowning.

Directed by William Keighley, with Errol Flynn top-billed (though his role as a soldier of fortune who befriends the Prince, thinking him an urchin, was secondary to those of the twins), plus a rousing score by Erich Korngold, the result is still considered the finest dramatisation of the Twain tale. Time magazine wrote of the brothers: "Their major assets are energy, lack of precocity and a wholesome distaste for showing off, which prevents them from trying to steal scenes like most of their contemporaries." Initially, one twin was to play all the royal scenes, with the other to play all the guttersnipe scenes, regardless of which character appeared in them, but the boys again switched roles occasionally.

Billy was next cast in Penrod and Sam (1937), based on the second of Booth Tarkington's tales of a mischievous lad in the American Midwest in the early 1900s, with Bobby officially Billy's stand-in, but the two boys were teamed in the two "Penrod" adventures that followed, Penrod and his Twin Brother and Penrod's Double Trouble (both 1938).

Their last film together, playing twin brothers, was I'll Tell the World (1939). During the Second World War the twins served together in the United States Air Force in the Philippines – the military had a rule that twins could not be separated unless they so requested – and they acted together in Moss Hart's play Winged Victory (1943), produced for the Army Emergency Relief Fund.

After the war, Billy continued acting, often playing small roles in films directed by old pals from the Warner days – he was in Dieterle's gripping thriller The Accused and William Keighley's crime drama The Street with No Name (both 1948). In his last film, Bedtime for Bonzo (1951) he was the student of a psychology professor (Ronald Reagan) who adopts a chimpanzee.

Bobby returned to Warners to work as a make-up assistant, then switched to editing, and for several years worked for Jack Webb's Mark VII productions. Billy eventually returned to Warners as a sound editor. The brothers remained close, and lived near each other in San Fernando Valley, California.

Tom Vallance

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century