|Was||Actor Film actor|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio|
|Birth||3 June 1917, New York City, New York, USA|
|Death||2 June 1969, Oakland, Alameda County, California, USA (aged 52 years)|
Leo Bernard Gorcey (June 3, 1917– June 2, 1969) was an American stage and movie actor who became famous for portraying the leader of a group of young hooligans known variously as the Dead End Kids, The East Side Kids and, as adults, The Bowery Boys. Always the most pugnacious gang member, Leo was a prototype of the young punk. He was also the shortest member of the original gang.
Gorcey was born in New York City, on June 3, 1917, the son of Josephine (née Condon), an Irish Catholic immigrant, and Bernard Gorcey, a Russian Jewish immigrant. Both were vaudevillian actors of short stature. Bernard Gorcey was 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m); his wife, 4 ft 11 in (1.50 m). Their son would reach 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) in adulthood.
In the 1930s, Leo's father lived apart from the family while working in theater and film. When he returned in 1935, he and David, Leo's brother, persuaded Leo to try out for a small part in the play Dead End. Having just lost his job as a plumber's apprentice and seeing his father's relative success, Leo decided to give acting a try. Leo and David were cast in small roles as two members of the East 53rd Place Gang (originally dubbed the "2nd Avenue Boys") in the play Dead End by Sidney Kingsley). Charles Duncan, originally cast as Spit, left the play, and Leo, his understudy, was promoted. Gorcey created the stage persona of a quarrelsome guttersnipe whose greatest joy was in making trouble.
In 1937, Samuel Goldwyn made the popular play into a movie of the same name and transported the six rowdy boys to Hollywood. Gorcey became one of the busiest actors in Hollywood during the following twenty years, starring as various characters in seven Dead End Kids movies (1937 to 1939); as Ethelbert "Muggs" McInnis/McGinnis/Maloney in twenty-one East Side Kids movies (1940 to 1945); and as Terence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney in forty-one Bowery Boys movies (1946 to 1956). Leo's character "Slip" was famed for his malapropisms, always delivered in a thick Brooklyn accent, such as: "a clever seduction" for "a clever deduction"; "I depreciate it!" ("I appreciate it!"); "I regurgitate" ("I reiterate"); and "optical delusion" ("optical illusion")." In the Bowery Boys series, Leo's father Bernard played Louie Dumbrowski, the diminutive sweetshop owner from whom the boys conned banana splits and financial loans.
In 1944, Gorcey had a recurring role in the Pabst Blue Ribbon Town radio show, starring Groucho Marx. He also had a small roll in a 1948 film, the sophisticated comedy So This Is New York, starring acerbic radio and television comedian, Henry Morgan, and Arnold Stang.
In 1955, after his father was killed in an automobile accident, Gorcey began abusing alcohol and lost a great deal of weight. When he trashed a movie set in an intoxicated rage, the studio refused to give him the pay raise he demanded, so he quit the Bowery Boys and was replaced in the last seven movies by Stanley Clements. Leo's brother David remained with the series until it ended in early 1958.
During the 1960s, Leo did very little acting. He had a bit part in the 1963 comedy, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Gorcey then appeared with old sidekick Huntz Hall in a pair of low budget films: Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar (1966) and The Phynx (1970). Gorcey also made an appearance in a TV commercial for the 1969 Pontiac.
Life after acting
Gorcey's autobiography, An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells, was published in 1967. Me and the Dead End Kid, a book about his father by Gorcey's son, Leo Jr., was published in 2003. In 2017, a third book on his life appeared, Leo Gorcey's Fractured World, by Jim Manago, which included an examination of Gorcey's use of malapropisms in the Bowery Boys films.
Gorcey's first cousin twice removed is sports writer Ryan Gorcey. Another of Gorcey's first cousins twice removed is actress Liz Gorcey, best known for her role in the 1984 film, Footloose.
His image was to appear on the cover of the Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but he requested a fee and was painted out. Coincidentally, he died on the second anniversary of the album's US release.
In May of 1939, Gorcey married 15-year-old dancer Kay Marvis (August 29, 1923-April 9, 2000), who appeared in four of his Monogram movies. They divorced in 1944, after which Kay met Groucho Marx and very soon became Groucho's wife. Leo married actress Evalene Bankston in October 1945, but they divorced two years later. In February 1949, Gorcey married actress and "Hedy Lamarr look-a-like" Amelita Ward, with whom he had worked in Clancy Street Boys and Smugglers' Cove. The union produced two children, including Leo Gorcey Jr., but the marriage ended in divorce in February 1956. Later that year, Gorcey married Brandy Davis. They had a daughter, Brandy Gorcey Ziesemer, but divorced in 1962. Finally, Gorcey married Mary Gannon in 1968, to whom he remained married until his death.
Years of alcoholism eventually caught up with Gorcey. He died of liver failure on June 2, 1969, one day short of his 52nd birthday. He is buried at Molinos Cemetery in Los Molinos, California.