Leo Bernard Gorcey
June 3, 1917
New York City, United States
|Died||June 2, 1969 (aged 51)|
Oakland, California, United States
(m. 1939; div. 1944)
(m. 1945; div. 1948)
(m. 1949; div. 1956)
(m. 1956; div. 1962)
|Relatives||David Gorcey (brother)|
Leo Bernard Gorcey (June 3, 1917– June 2, 1969) was an American stage and film actor, famous for portraying the leader of a group of hooligans known variously as the Dead End Kids, The East Side Kids, and, as adults, The Bowery Boys. Gorcey was famous for his use of malapropisms, such as "I depreciate it!" instead of "I appreciate it!"
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, Gorcey's father lived apart from the family while working in theater and film. When he returned in 1935, he and David, Gorcey's brother, persuaded him 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 modest success, Gorcey decided to give acting a try. The Gorcey boys 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 Gorcey, 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" films between 1937 and 1939, as Ethelbert "Muggs" McInnis/McGinnis/Maloney in twenty-one "East Side Kids" film between 1940 and 1945, and as Terence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney in forty-one "Bowery Boys" films between 1946 and 1956. Gorcey'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!" for "I appreciate it!", "I regurgitate" for "I reiterate", and "optical delusion" for "optical illusion"." In the Bowery Boys series, Gorcey's father Bernard played Louie Dumbrowski, the diminutive owner of a "sweetshop" where the boys hung out and 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 role in a 1948 film, the comedy So This Is New York, starring comedian Henry Morgan and Arnold Stang.
In 1955, after his father died as a result of injuries from an automobile accident, Gorcey began abusing alcohol and lost a great deal of weight. When he trashed a film 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 films by Stanley Clements. However, Gorcey's brother David remained with the series until it ended in early 1958.
During the 1960s, Gorcey did very little acting. He had a bit part in the 1963 comedy, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, he appeared with old sidekick, Huntz Hall, in a pair of low budget films, Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar in 1966 and The Phynx in 1970. Gorcey also made an appearance in a TV commercial for the 1969 Pontiac.
Gorcey published an autobiography, An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells, in 1967, which was limited to 1,000 copies. It was reprinted in 2004.
In May 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 and wed Groucho Marx.
Gorcey married actress Evalene Bankston in October 1945, but they divorced two years later. He was arrested for firing a gun at his wife when she entered his home in Van Nuys, California, but was acquitted of the charge in 1948.
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 on July 12, 1968, to whom he remained married until his death.
Years of alcoholism eventually caught up with Gorcey and 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.
His image was to appear on the cover of the Beatles' 1967 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.
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.
|1962||The Dick Powell Theatre||Billy Vale||Episode: "No Strings Attached"|
|1962||Mr. Smith Goes to Washington||Windy||Episode: "...But What Are You Doing for Your Country?"|