Leo Gorcey: A Figure of Missed Speach

Leo Gorcey & Huntz Hall ~ Where Misplaced Words Meet Missing Thoughts. ~

Leo Gorcey & Huntz Hall
~ Where Misplaced Words Meet Missing Thoughts. ~

(Factual corrections in  paragraph one of this article are the welcome contributions of Houston pop culture historian Roy Bonario. Thanks, Roy!)

Leo Gorcey and his gang of young New York street toughs made their debut as a group in the 1937 Humphrey Bogart movie “Dead End.”  Mostly background characters in their first film go-around identity, their chemistry as “The Dead End Kids” apparently was too good for Hollywood to resist. In 1938, the boys were back on the screen in the James Cagney film, “Angels with Dirty Faces, and in 1939 with Ronald Reagan in a movie entitled as “The Angels Wash Their Faces.” The principal actors of the “juvenile delinquent” group that worked with Gorcey included his real co-star, Huntz Hall,  plus brother David Gorcey, Gabriel Dell, Bobby Jordan, Billy Halop, and Billy Benedict, plus a few others every now and then over the 18 years of their existence (1938-56) as a group that quickly mutated from supporting roles in big star dramatic flicks to the main characters of their own Grade “B Movie” comedy series.

Like many kids of the 1940s and 1950s, your humble Pecan Park Eagle writer grew up watching these guys perform at the Saturday double feature plus serial program at The Avalon Theater on 75th Avenue in the Houston East End. We watched Gorcey and the Gang transform from “Dead End Kids” to “East Side Kids” (We liked that one a lot.) to their most famous surviving identity as “The Bowery Boys.” Over time, we watched Leo Gorcey’s character transition from Mugs McGinnis to Slip Mahoney. – Leo Gorcey’s actual father, Bernard Gorcey, even joined the ensemble, playing Louie Dumbrowsky, the owner of “Louiie’s Sweet Shop,” where the boys hung out in their movies and planned their misadventures.

Leo Gorcey as either Mugs or Slip or whomever else, was famous as the English language usage-butchering of words in strange context throughout this priceless series. Friend and blog column reader Mike McCroskey brought this fond memory home to roost yesterday when he responded to the article we published on the Houston Babies’ doubleheader loss last weekend. In mock defense of my using him in that column as the star of an all-in-fun aging joke, Mike namelessly used one of Gorcey’s famous words of protest in his public comment on the article. That led to my reply – and then a further exchange between the the two of us in which we each fired off another Gorcey jewel.

How about all the rest of Leo’s great expressions? Sometimes memory fails, so please help us, if you can.

We just want to bring our examples to brighter light here in the hope that some of you may remember others that we cannot immediately recall. If I could justify the usage of my time, I would personally go back and watch all those Gorcey movies again to compile a lexicon of his misused words, but I just can’t do all the little projects I’d like to cover. Other new commitments of effort are already beginning to fill my research and writing dance card, even as I write this column.

So, our best bet for recovery of these lost jewels is up to all of us who even care. Here’s the comment exchange between Mike McCroskey and yours truly on that recent Babies thread, “Houston Babies Drop Two, 14-4, 13-8.” We uncovered three of Gorcey’s most  famous malaprops – and these occurred long before a comedian named Norm Crosby started making his living with an act he built around mis-used words:

McCroskey Comment No. One: “Hey, I resemble that remark!”

MeCurdy Response: “Leo Gorcey could not have said it better!”

McCroskey Comment No. Two: “And I depreciate your comment.”

McCurdy Response: “And pardon me for protruding.”

If you can think of any other great Leo Gorcey examples of word misuse – or even things he could have said – please post them below as comments.

Hey! We all need something worthwhile to do with our time in the now only a little less than ten hours that separate us from Game Seven of The World Series!  – Don’t we?

___________________________

Addendum to Article: Thank you, Roy Bonario, for your same day corrections of fact in this article – and thanks for your life as a pioneer of cultural and artefactual preservation in Houston!

Noted Houston movie and pop culture historian Roy Bonario caught me in some factual misremembrances, but we were able to resolve them through this corresponding posted comment that also resides in the comment section that exists at the of all our WordPress publications. The Pecan Park Eagle to also bring t up here as an addendum so that others will ot perceive the need to flag the same “deflected arrows.”

Thanks for the help, Roy, – and thank any of you who may ever choose to write and point out our mistakes of fact. We welcome getting the chance to get things right. We will not necessarily change our opinions in some matters of subjective perception, but we are always open to dealing with anything written as fact which cannot be supported by objective factual confirmation.

Here’s the exchange between Roy Bonario and Yours Truly:

Roy Bonario Says:

Bill. I grew up with the Dead End Kids in all their different titles. Your article brought back a lot of memories for me and I thank you for posting it. A few corrections: The Dead End Kids made their debut in the 1937 movie “Dead End” from which they got their name. The Garfield movie was “They Made Me A Criminal” and “Angels Wash Their Faces starred Ronald Reagan.

  • Bill McCurdy Says:
    Thanks, Roy, for the correction of how I “misremembered” history. I am totally mummified by my arrows of thought. I really do know the the group’s name came from the “Dead End” Bogart movie – but I had forgotten Ronald Reagan was the star of “Angels Wash Their Faces.” Also, John Garfield’s movie resemblance in “They Made Me a Criminal” hurts too like a steak that went straight to my heart because I had forgotten that one too. As Chester Riley once put it so elongatedly, “What a revolting development this is!” 🙂

Thanks again, Roy! – Also, I may not have told you this previously, but I’m probably just one of the many Houstonians who do remember and miss “Roy’s Memory Shop” on Bissonett.  What a great awakening you brought to Houston forty years ago as an awareness of pop cultural artifacts. No one had done it before you did it in 1970 (or thereabouts) – and no one has done it better in the time that has passed since then.

Thank you, Roy Bonario, for the intangible gift you brought to  all of us in this city! You are appreciated as a pioneer of social connection to the past and of commitment to preservation.

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11 Responses to “Leo Gorcey: A Figure of Missed Speach”

  1. Rick B. Says:

    Your actor is a bit before my time, Bill; however, I well remember Don Knotts mangling many expressions as Barney Fife on the old Andy Griffith Show. I know he’s not the one whose examples you’re looking for, but I can’t resist posting a few ‘Barneyisms’: kleptomenerac, compelsion complex, and the Smith Brothers Institution in Washington D.C. immediately come to my mind.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thank for these, Rick. – Yes, like Leo Gorcey and Norm Crosby before him, Don Knotts’ command of the English language was also shaky in both the figurative and literal terms of whatever he said.

  2. Roy Bonario Says:

    Bill. I grew up with the Dead End Kids in all their different titles. Your article brought back a lot of memories for me and I thank you for posting it. A few corrections: The Dead End Kids made their debut in the 1937 movie “Dead End” from which they got their name. The Garfield movie was “They Made Me A Criminal” and “Angels Wash Their Faces starred Ronald Reagan.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thanks, Roy, for the correction of how I “misremembered” history. I am totally mummified by my arrows of thought. I really do know the the group’s name came from the “Dead End” Bogart movie – but I had forgotten Ronald Reagan was the star of “Angels Wash Their Faces.” Also, John Garfield’s movie resemblance in “They Made Me a Criminal” hurts too like a steak that went straight to my heart because I had forgotten that one too. As Chester Riley once put it so elongatedly, “What a revolting development this is!” 🙂

  3. Rick B. Says:

    Bill if you’re truly looking for the best malapropisms, I’d recommend either the book “Ignorance is Blitz” (formerly titled “Non Campus Mentis”) or any/all of Richard Lederers “Anguished English” books. Lederer collects true doozies like: “I don’t want to cast asparagus at my opponent” and “Medieval cathedrals were supported by flying buttocks.”
    As for me, I collect plenty of whoppers from my students’ papers. I often don’t know whether to laugh or cry (sometimes I do both). : )

  4. Pete Koch Says:

    My absolute favorite: Sach had a cold and no one could understand anything he said. Slip chimed in:”You’ll have to forgive my friend. He’s got a sinus infatuation”. Don’t remember the movie, but it was NOT “Blues Busters” in which Sach got his tonsils removed and became “The Bowery Thrush”.

  5. roy bonario Says:

    Thanks for the kind words Bill!! I miss the Memory shop and all the friends I made there but sadly the days of that kind of shop are over. It was fun while it lasted. I hope your Pecan Park Eagle will last forever. My best to you and all your followers. Roy

  6. Ed Says:

    Always jumping to seclusions/delusions

    We’ll all become malted millionaires

    aggravated and imperviated

    derailing my train of thought

    finger of speech

    are you incinerating that …… ?

  7. Pat ONeal Says:

    Dont forget: ” Are you incinerating that I am lying?

  8. Pete Koch Says:

    Just watched “No Holds Barred”. These are from memory, so the words might not be precisely accurate.

    I always like to coagulate with the press.

    That’s affecting my synthetic nervous system.

    There’s an old maxillary: two’s company, three’s a crowd.

    A thousand dollars ? A mere poultry sum.

    (To a woman he met/kissed the day before): Let’s go out on the terrace and refertilize yesterday’s mood.

    You can’t put that picture in a family albumin.

    I don’t wish to appear indigenous, but excuse me (he leaves)

  9. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Watching “Jungle Gents” on 10/22/2016 ….

    When it gets out that a powerful anti-biotic has given Sach the power to smell diamonds, the Bowery Boys are sent to Africa to guide the rare talented one in his work for special interests,’

    …. Gorcey explains at one point that Sach had to take his meds for a bad sinus “infatuation”;

    …. Gorcey later refers to Africa as the place they call The Dark “Condiment”.

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