Ben Frommer was the epitome of the successful character actor. Across a screen career totaling more than 40 years, he worked in over 100 film roles and possibly twice as many parts on television, ranging from just a few seconds of screen time in feature films to regular work on one of the more popular western series of the mid-1960s. And in virtually all of it, as with so many of the best people in his profession, he melted so well into the parts he played that audiences were seldom possessed to even ask his name. Ironically, it was in one of the cheapest -- and perhaps THE cheapest -- production on which he ever worked, in a part scarcely larger, or of longer duration than his typical background and supporting role, that Frommer earned his lingering name recognition. Born in Poland in 1913, Frommer arrived in Hollywood as an actor in the early 1940s, making his screen bow with an uncredited appearance in the 1943 Olsen & Johnson vehicle Crazy House. He next showed up in a bit part in the Laurence Tierney-starring film noir Born To Kill (1947). Frommer's short stature and fireplug-like physique, coupled with his rough-hewn features, made him ideal for playing working-class background parts such as deliverymen and taxi drivers. Most of his work was in lower-budgeted films, including exploitation fare such as Sid Melton's Bad Girls Do Cry (shot in the mid-1950s but not issued till much later). And it was in low-budget films -- some of the lowest budgeted ever made, in fact -- that Frommer would achieve a form of immortality as an actor.
It was writer/producer/director Edward D. Wood, Jr. who gave Frommer the opportunity to play a slightly wider range of parts. In Bride Of the Monster, Frommer was cast as a surly drunk, while in Wood's magnum opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space, he is the mourner who is charged by the script with providing the explanation as to why the old man (played by Bela Lugosi in footage shot for a movie that was never made) is buried in a crypt, while his wife (Maila "Vampira" Nurmi) is buried in the ground. The dialogue is as awkward as anything else in the notoriously poorly made (but thoroughly entertaining) movie, but Frommer does his best to deliver it convincingly, in what was almost certainly one very rushed take. Around this time, Frommer also showed up in the horror film Cult of the Cobra and the outsized production of Around The World In 80 Days, and a lot more television as well -- he also began providing voices for animated productions, a professional activity that would occupy ever more of his time later in his career. He worked in pictures by John Ford (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), Alfred Hitchcock (Torn Curtain), and Mervyn LeRoy (Gypsy), but it was during this same period, from 1965 through 1967, that Frommer achieved his widest weekly exposure on television, when he was cast in the comedic western series F-Troop in the role of Smokey Bear, the squat, chunky (and uncredited) member of the Hekawi Indian tribe. He usually did little more than hold the reigns of the horses ridden by Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch's characters, but he was impossible to miss in a shot.
Frommer remained a very busy character actor and voice-actor over the next two decades, and only slowed down during his final years in the profession. During that time, he took on the new profession of publicist for his fellow actors. He died in 1992 at the age of 78.