Gorcey, Leo

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GORCEY, LEO (1917–1969), U.S. actor. Bowery Boy Leo Gorcey was born in New York to an Irish mother, Josephine Condon, and a Russian-born Jewish father, bernard (1886–1955), an actor who played Papa Cohen in Abie's Irish Rose on Broadway. Gorcey dropped out of school to apprentice in his uncle's plumbing shop. However, in 1935 his father encouraged Leo and his brother david (1921–1984) to try out for the Broadway drama Dead End; both were cast as New York street toughs. Gorcey was later tapped for the role of "Spit" in the 1937 feature film adaptation that starred Humphrey Bogart and Joel McCrea. The Dead End Kids would appear in a slate of dramas, including Angels with Dirty Faces starring James Cagney, which spoke to such issues as social injustice. In 1940 the name of the gang was changed to the East Side Kids, and Monogram Studios decided to play the kids for laughs, upping the slapstick in several low-budget hour-long films in which Gorcey played "Muggs McGinnis" and his brother played "Peewee." The group was renamed a second time as the Bowery Boys in 1946, with Gorcey playing roughneck leader "Terence 'Slip' Mahoney," his brother "Chuck," and his father "Louie," the sweet shop owner. Gorcey, his brother, and father often shot four to five Bowery movies a year until 1956, when Bernard died after a car accident in Los Angeles in 1955. Gorcey, upset by the death of his father, retired from films and moved to a ranch near Red Bluff, Calif. He married five times between 1939 and 1968, and had three children. Gorcey died in Oakland, Calif., two years after writing his autobiography, An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells.

[Adam Wills (2nd ed.)]