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Friday, 04 April 2014 17:29

George Bookasta

By | Obituaries

SARATOGA SPRINGS — George Bookasta passed away last week in Saratoga Springs at 96. He was a child movie star in the Golden Era of Hollywood, a big band leader, World War II veteran, entertainer, director, producer, avid horseman, loving father, grandfather and friend to many.

George was born on July 14, 1917 in Kansas City, Missouri. At the age of 3, George—with a mustache, bowler and Charlie Chaplin outfit—was seen by a talent scout on the Vaudeville stage and signed by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin for United Artists. The family then moved to Hollywood. George was cast in a dozen child star roles opposite Pickford, Reginald Denny and numerous other leading stars of the day. Amongst his most memorable roles, George played opposite Lupe Velez, as "Spotty", in Henry King's "Hell’s Harbor", one of the earliest feature films with sound. He also played in the Thief of Baghdad, Little Annie Roonie, Coquette, Rosita and Night Bird.

George went to Hollywood High School and was an unbeaten track star, playing football and baseball as well. He started his own orchestra after high school in the 1930s and was soon headlining Hollywood's Cafe de Paris, live on national radio.

George joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and was sent to the European front. He was a Sergeant and Army radio operator who saw active service during World War II in Germany and France where he was injured in battle. George formed an orchestra in the army, was a leader of men on the battlefied and escaped death many times.

After the war, seeing an opening in the new TV industry, George developed the nation's first weekly TV magazine, TV TIME, which he published for several years.

George was a horse owner and active part of the thoroughbred industry and Saratoga community.

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George had friends everywhere he went and the respect of all who knew him. He could regularly be seen at the horse racing track and enjoying the restaurants and shops of Main Street in Saratoga Springs, bringing smiles to people‘s faces.

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