They are left to right: Leo Gorcey as Spit, Gabe Dell as T.B., Bobby Jordan as Angel, Bernard Punsly (he’s the least known) as Milty, Billy Halop as Tommy, and Huntz Hall as Dippy.
In later incarnations, and with different character names they were The Little Tough Guys, the East Side Kids, and The Bowery Boys. Actors came and went but two, Gorcey and Hall, stayed the course for the entire 20 year run.
Most of “Boys” ended up badly.
The best known and most recognizable of the “Kids”, Gorcey, died of liver failure in 1969, just a day shy of his 52nd birthday. He came from a theatrical family — he was the son of a diminutive couple, Russian Jewish vaudevillian Bernard Gorcey and his Irish Catholic mate Josephine, both of whom stood four-foot-eleven, tops.
Beginning in 1937, Gorcey (who stood five-foot-six) was one busy actor, appearing in seven Dead End Kids movies through 1939, more than 20 East Side Kids pictures through the ensuing five years, and in more than 40 Bowery Boys titles through 1956. Despite his durable career, Gorcey’s work was not always well received. “As an actor, you stink,” fumed director Anatole Litvak.
Gorcey played the tough punk off-camera as well. He had brushes with the law, including a late Forties shoot-out with private detectives sent by his second wife to retrieve a cash divorce settlement. Leo married five times, and his first spouse (dancer Kay Marvis), went on to wed Groucho Marx.
Born in 1919 Gabriel De Vecchio , the son of an Italian doctor, Gabe Dell often appeared in the Kids movies as an outsider (say, a reporter or a cop), not a member of the gang. He was probably the most “serious” actor of the Kids franchise; he even studied for a while at the Actors Studio. Dell, also a veteran of the original “Dead End” cast, bid farewell to the Bowery Boys in 1950, after which he formed a night club act with none other than Huntz Hall. Dell was somewhat atypical for the Kids in that he was relatively tall (five-foot-ten), and managed to live past 65 (he died in North Hollywood in 1988, at 68). He is the father of actor Gabriel Dell Jr.
Brooklyn-born child actor (he made his stage debut at seven), Bobby Jordan — who shuffled off this mortal coil at age 42 (he died of cirrhosis of the liver in a VA hospital) — was not the happiest Kids camper. After eight appearances in the Bowery Boys series, Jordan decamped in the late Forties because he felt he was playing second fiddle to Gorcey and Huntz Hall. Once living high off the hog in Beverly Hills, he suffered a series of marital and financial reversals, declaring bankruptcy in 1958, seven years before he died.
Bernard Punsly, the least known of the Kids, was probably the most “normal.” Acting to him was a youthful lark that landed him in the original “Dead End” stage play in New York, and ensuing “Kids” film spinoffs in Hollywood. Punsly always hankered to be a medical doctor. He joined the Army in the mid-Forties, and received medical training eventually leading to full blown MD studies at the Univ. of Georgia. He eventually set up a practice in Torrance, California, where he died at age 81 in 2004. Punsly once said that while he enjoyed his Kids appearances, he had little interest in watching his old films.
Billy Halop, New York City born (in 1920), also appeared in playwright Sidney Kingsley’s “Dead End” play, and made the transition with fellow cast members to Hollywood. Halop harbored delusions of grandeur. He left the Kids troupe in the Forties to try to carve out an acting career on his own. The best he could do was an assortment of B pictures. (He spent his last years working as a male nurse in Malibu, California.) Halop suffered a heart attack, and died in 1976.
Born Henry Richard Hall in New York in 1919, Huntz Hall appeared in more than 80 Kids-related titles which made him a rich man by the time he died at 79 in 1999. (Hall owned a piece of the Bowery Boys titles, and made profitable gas and oil investments as well.) In the early Fifties, Hall teamed up with Gabe Dell in a night club act which netted both divorces by their respective wives at the time (who concluded the two cared more about their act than they did about them). Hall branched out a bit during his career, and is remarkably good in his supporting role as a dogfoot GI in 1945’s “A Walk In The Sun” — which we believe is one of the best WW II war movies ever made