Bobby Jordan: From “Dead End” to Dead End

Bobby Jordan (Robert G. Jordan, 1923-1965) was one the key members of the Dead End Kids/ East Side Kids/ Bowery Boys movie franchises. Though the youngest of the bunch, he worked in films earlier than the others, and was one of the few to have a career outside of the series’ in the early years.

From Westchester, New York, Jordan was working as a child performer and model from age four. He sang, danced, and played the saxophone, and was enrolled in the Professional Children’s School. At age seven he appeared in the original Broadway production of Elmer Rice’s Street Scene (1929-30). In 1931 and ’32 he appeared as one of the gang in Vitaphone’s Penrod and Sam series with Billy Hayes. He also had a bit role in Eddie Cantor’s Kid Millions (1934). Then came the Broadway premiere of Dead End, and the ensuring film series we wrought about here.

Outside of the Dead End Kids, Jordan appeared in movies like A Slight Case of Murder (1938) with Edward G. Robinson, Reformatory (1938) with Jack Holt, My Bill (1938) with Kay Francis and Bonita Granville, Off the Record (1939) with Pat O’Brien and Joan Blondell, Dust Be My Destiny (1939) with John Garfield and Priscilla Lane, Young Tom Edison (1940) with Mickey Rooney, Military Academy (1940), Destroyer (1943), and Adventures of the Flying Cadets (1943).

Jordan served in the infantry in World War Two. After the war, he rejoined his old cohorts in the Bowery Boys series, and though he is recognizable in these subsequent nine movies, almost all of the lines and bits of business belong to Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall. Jordan finally said goodbye to the series after Bowery Buckaroos in 1947.

He had a decent role (fourth billed) in Treasure of Monte Cristo (1949), but from 1951 through 1961 he was mostly a bit player in television, on shows like Tales of Wells Fargo, Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, and Maverick. A walk-on in The Eddie Cantor Story (1953) is one of his few films during these late years. His last screen credit was an episode of Bonanza in 1961. His role was “Thug #2”.

Jordan worked a succession of menial jobs during his last years, which were plagued by alcoholism He died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 41.

For more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.