Gorcey in 1945
Leo Bernard Gorcey|
June 3, 1917
New York City, United States
June 2, 1969 (aged 51)|
Oakland, California, United States
Kay Marvis (1939-1944; divorced; 1 child)|
Evalene Bankston (1945-1948; divorced)
Amelita Ward (1949-1956; divorced; 2 children)
Brandy Gorcey (1956-1962; divorced; 1 child)
Mary Gannon (1968-1969; his death)
|Relatives||David Gorcey (brother)|
Leo Bernard Gorcey (June 3, 1917- June 2, 1969) was an American stage and movie actor who became famous for portraying the leader of the group of young hooligans known variously as the Dead End Kids, The East Side Kids, and as an adult, The Bowery Boys. Always the most pugnacious member of the gangs in which he participated, young Leo was the filmic prototype of the young punk. He was the shortest member of the original gang.
Gorcey was born in New York City, on June 3, 1917. The son of 16-year-old Josephine (née Condon), an Irish Catholic immigrant, and 31-year-old Bernard Gorcey, a Russian Jewish immigrant, both vaudevillian actors as well as small people. Bernard Gorcey was 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m), and his wife was 4 ft 11 in (1.50 m); as an adult, Leo would reach 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m).
In the 1930s, Leo's father became estranged from the family while working in theater and film. When he returned in 1935, he and Leo's brother, David, 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 as two members of the East 53rd Place Gang (originally dubbed the "2nd Avenue Boys" in the play Dead End published by playwright Sydney Kingsley) with limited stage time. Charles Duncan, who was originally cast as Spit, left the play, and Leo, his understudy, was promoted. Gorcey created 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 for the next 20 years.
In the Bowery Boys movies, Leo's father, Bernard Gorcey, played Louie Dumbrowski, the diminutive sweetshop owner from whom the boys conned banana splits and financial loans. Leo's character "Slip" was famed for his malapropisms always delivered in a 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 1939, Gorcey married 17-year-old dancer Kay Marvis, who appeared in four of his Monogram movies. They divorced in 1944, after which Kay met Groucho Marx and very soon after, became Groucho's wife. In 1949, Gorcey married Amelita Ward, with whom he had worked in Clancy Street Boys and Smugglers' Cove. She gave birth to Leo Gorcey, Jr., during their marriage.
Also in 1944, Gorcey had a recurring role in the Pabst Blue Ribbon Town radio show, starring Groucho Marx. In 1948, Gorcey played a small role in the sophisticated movie comedy So This Is New York starring acerbic radio and television comedian Henry Morgan and featuring 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 did appear in the epic 1963 comedy, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, in a bit part. Gorcey then made two final appearances on film with Huntz Hall in a pair of low budget productions: Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar (1966) and The Phynx (1970).
In 1967, Gorcey published his autobiography, entitled An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells. In 2003, Gorcey's son Leo, Jr., published a book about his father, entitled Me and the Dead End Kid In 2017, a third book on his life, Leo Gorcey's Fractured World was published by Jim Manago and examines his use of malaprops in his 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, who is most 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.