Ninety-three years ago on this date, Leo Bernard Gorcey was born in the Big Apple…and though you could say that his future profession was telegraphed by the fact that both of his parents were New York vaudevillians, he probably never realized that he’d grow up to be one of the silver screen’s most famous juvenile delinquents. His big show business break occurred in 1935 as a member in the cast of the stage hit Dead End—he was hired for the movie version two years later, and as a member of “The Dead End Kids” acted alongside motion picture greats like James Cagney (Angels with Dirty Faces ) and Humphrey Bogart (Crime School ).
Here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear—despite supporting roles in films as varied as Out of the Fog (1941), Maisie Gets Her Man (1942) and So This Is New York (1948)—Gorcey is revered for the films he made with Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell (both of whom are pictured with Leo above), Bobby Jordan, Billy Benedict, brother David Gorcey, etc. between 1946 and 1956 in the popular Bowery Boys movie series…currently enjoying a revival on Turner Classic Movies each Saturday morning at 10:30am. These films, with titles like Hold That Baby! (1949), Blues Busters (1950), Ghost Chasers (1951) and Let's Go Navy! (1951), were best described by my esteemed blogging colleague Elisson as “stupid low-budget comedy, but masterfully done.” To be honest, Gorcey’s co-star Huntz Hall had a tendency to grate from time to time but I thought Leo was always first-rate. In addition to the Bowery Boys films, Gorcey also turned up regularly on radio: his best showcase was as a cast member on the underrated Blue Ribbon Town (a series starring Groucho Marx, who became a lifelong pal of Leo’s after Gorcey’s first wife, Kay Mavis, left him for the elder comedian) but he was also a mainstay of Bob Burns’ The Lifebuoy Show. So happy birthday—or should that be boithday?—Ethelbert “Muggs” McGinnis…I doff my hat to you, hitting you on top of the head in the process.