Stanley Clements (Stanislaw Klimowicz, 1926-1981) is best known to classic comedy fans as “Stash” and “Duke” from the East Side Kids and Bowery Boys franchises, but he’s one of the few of that bunch to have quite a good screen career, before, during, and after those series.
Born on Long Island, raised in New York City, Clements performed in vaudeville for two years, toured with Major Bowes and did some radio work before being signed by 20th Century Fox in 1941. Still a teenager, he got some great roles coming out of the gate. In his first film Tall, Dark and Handsome (1941) he was sixth billed behind Cesar Romero, Virginia Gilmore, Milton Berle, Charlotte Greenwood, and Sheldon Leonard. He enjoyed similar billing in his next couple of pictures, and by On the Sunny Side the following year, he was third billed to Roddy McDowell and Jane Darwell. Meantime, he played Stash in several of the East Side Kids pictures (1942-43), while continuing to have roles in well-known movies like They Got Me Covered (1943) with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, Sweet Rosie O’Grady (1943) with Betty Grable, Cover Girl (1943) with Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly, and Going My Way (1944) with Bing Crosby.
In 1945, still only 19 years old, he married Gloria Graham, whose eye-popping turn in It’s a Wonderful Life was still a year away. Clements served in the army during 1946, returning to the screen in Variety Girl (1947). He continued to play bell hops, news boys, and boot blacks for the next few years in movies like The Babe Ruth Story (1948) with William Bendix and Joe Palooka in Winner Takes All (1948, pictured above). Graham and he divorced in 1948. By then she was the bigger star, although Clements was second billed to William Holden in Boots Malone (1952). He also starred in low budget crime pictures at Monogram and other independent studios through the late ’40s and early ’50s.
After Leo Gorcey left the Bowery Boys, Clements was hired to replace him as the titular leader of the gang, although Huntz Hall now became the star of the series. There were seven pictures with this formula from 1956 through 1958. Meantime, Clements still appeared in movies, and increasingly, television. In 1962 he was in a Jean Yarbrough cheapie called Saintly Sinners, billed behind Don Beddoe and Ellen Corby. The following year he had a walk-on in It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. His last years were spent in bit parts on shows like Gunsmoke, Cannon, Baretta, Police Woman, and The Feather and Father Gang. His last credit was as a saloon extra in the comedy western Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978). Stanley Clements was only 55 when he died of emphysema in 1981.
For more on vaudeville and its veterans, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.