Gale Gordon: Biography
Gale Gordon is one of the most recognized supporting actors in show business most notably working with Lucille Ball on all of her shows. What is not so well known among the general public is that Gordon had a long and extensive career in radio, even becoming radio's highest paid actor at one time.
Gordon was born as Charles Thomas Aldrich, Jr. in 1906 to vaudevillian Charles Aldrich and English actress Gloria Gordon in New York City. He was born with a cleft palate, a condition where the lip or the lip and palate are not completely closed while in the womb. While still young, the family moved to London tow work and while there, Gordon's cleft palate was fixed. Eventually the family returned to the United States though Gordon returned to England to attend school at 17.
When he returned in 1923, Gordon immediately landed a role in a production of The Dancers as an extra. Then, in 1926, he made his first appearance on the radio singing and playing the ukelele. It was a start. Eventually supporting roles in radio shows like Tarzan and Gangbusters started coming his way and one starring role in Flash Gordon.
In 1939, Gordon found his specialty in comedy in a guest starring role on The Joe E. Brown Show. He found a comedy home on Fibber McGee and Molly as Mayor LaTrivia. This is where he started he first started his trademark slow burn and explosion. Gordon played the mayor for 12 years.
While playing the mayor on Fibber McGee, Gordon landed the role for which he is best known in radio. He was hired to play the sneaky principal, Osgood Conklin, on Our Miss Brooks. At the same time that he was playing Principal Conklin, Gordon took a prophetic part on another show. He took the part of Rudolph Atterbury on the show My Favorite Husband starring Lucille Ball.
As radio was giving way to television, Ms. Ball took her show to television in the form of I Love Lucy. She wanted Gordon to take the part of Fred Mertz but Gordon's contract kept him from accepting the part. A year after I Love Lucy debuted, Arden gave her OK take Our Miss Brooks to television and Gordon went with her.
Gale Gordon had a long and rewarding career in television though his life was back on his farm in Borrego Springs, CA with his wife Virgina. Gordon married Virginia Curley in 1937. In 1948, he bought his 150 acre farm where he built a house, a studio and furniture for the house. Not only was he an actor and a craftsman, Gordon was a farmer. He was one of a very few farmers in the United States who grew and sold carob. He was a painter, a veteran of the Coast Guard, and an author.
After living a long and full life, Gale Gordon died six months after his wife in 1995. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame 1999.