The OTHER Other September 11: The Death of Bernard Gorcey
Lest the relatively frivolous or contained nature of this tragic post offend you, I hasten to point out all of the appropriately somber posts I have done about September 11, 2001. This is about yet another, more minor, tragedy that happened on calendar date September 11. Nor do I refer (as some do) to the coup that killed Argentine President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. No, this is yet another tragedy. For on this day in 1955, Bernard Gorcey fatally smashed the car he was driving into a bus, effectively portending the end of the Bowery Boys.
This sad development occurred for two reasons. One, was that Gorcey’s character of Louie, and the hangout Louie’s Sweet Shop, had become central to the mythos. How could the series continue without it? And certainly it would be heresy to re-cast the part. Particularly because, Gorcey’s son Leo had become the star and co-producer of the long-running series. Which brings us to reason two. The younger Gorcey idolized his dad. When Bernard passed away, Leo went into a drunken tailspin. This led to his being cast out, a pariah on the set, leaving Huntz Hall to carry on as the only proper Bowery Boy left. The heart was cut out of the series. They only made a couple of features without Leo. The Bowery Boys were, as Louie himself might say, “kaput.”
To learn more about slapstick comedy history please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc