The Bowery Boys were successors of the "The East Side Kids," who had been the subject of films since 1940. The group originated as the "Dead End Kids", who originally appeared in the 1937 film "The Dead End Kids" originally appeared in the 1935 play Dead End.
When Samuel Goldwyn turned the play into a 1937 film, he recruited the original "kids" from the play, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Billy Halop, and Bernard Punsly, to appear in the same roles in the film. This led to the making of six other films that shared the collective title "The Dead End Kids."
In 1938, Universal launched its own tough-kid series, "Little Tough Guys." Gradually, Universal recruited most of the original Dead End Kids, so the series ultimately featured "The Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys." Universal made twelve feature films, and three 12-chapter serials with the gang.
In 1945, when East Side Kids producer Katzman refused to grant Leo Gorcey's request to double his weekly salary, Gorcey quit the series, which then ended immediately. Bobby Jordan then suggested a meeting with his agent, Jan Grippo. Grippo, Gorcey, and Hall formed Jan Grippo Productions, revamped the format, and rechristened the series, The Bowery Boys.
Gorcey, who owned 40 percent of the company, starred, produced, and contributed to the scripts. The new series followed a more established formula than the prior incarnations of the team, with the gang usually hanging out at Louie's Sweet Shop (at 3rd & Canal St.- actually, there is no intersection of Canal and 3rd Street. They parallel each other about six blocks apart.) until an adventure came along. The Bowery is a street and neighborhood in the southern portion of the New York City borough of Manhattan.
The original main characters were Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney (Leo Gorcey), Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones (Huntz Hall), Bobby (Bobby Jordan), Whitey (Billy Benedict), and Chuck (David Gorcey, sometimes billed as David Condon). "Sunshine" Sammy Morrison, "Scruno" in the East Side Kids films, declined the invitation to rejoin the gang, later stating in an interview that he "didn't like the setup", possibly referring to the idea of Gorcey and Hall being in the forefront, and being paid much more than the other members.
When Bobby Jordan quit the series for the same reason, his character was replaced by Butch Williams, with former East Side Kids Bennie Bartlett and Buddy Gorman alternating in the role. The proprietor of the malt shop where they hung out was Louie Dumbrowski (Bernard Gorcey, Leo's and David's real-life father).
The members went through a number of changes over the course of the series and thirteen actors were members of the team at one time or another. Bobby Jordan, an original Dead End Kid, appeared in the first eight films, but left after being injured in an elevator accident. Jordan was also unhappy with the direction of the series, which favored Gorcey and Hall, and limited the participation of the other gang members.
Gabriel Dell also appeared in some of the movies. He was just out of the Navy with a French war-bride in tow. He played a utility character, appearing as a private investigator, policeman, songwriter, reporter, Nazi spy to suit the story. Because money was apparently an object of concern for Gorcy, Dell appearances limited the casting budget.
The early films flirted with humor-laced crime dramas, but gradually shifted to all-out comedy, growing more slapstick and fantasy-oriented over the next decade. After 1950, the series began to resemble Abbott and Costello comedies and the gang's dingy basement club-house was replaced by an ice cream parlor. They also adopted a more adult look, exchanging their sloppy, juvenile wardrobe for suits.
The team started to fade when Huntz Hall was elevated to co-star status to showcase his comedic skills and the stories began to focus entirely on Slip (the self-proclaimed leader of the bunch) and his sidekick, Sach, with the diminished three or four "boys" receding into the background with little to do. Time and again the plot revolved around Sach accidentally acquiring some strange power or ability (a psychic, champion wrestler, crooner, etc.) that he tries to exploit. In most of the films, the gang pursued get rich quick schemes or got mixed up with neighborhood thugs.
Gorcey and Hall became a comedy duo that increased the popularity of the series and in 1953 a new producer and director who had previously worked with The Three Stooges, transformed the series into profitable kiddie-matinee material. Gorcey and Hall re-enacted gags borrowed from the Stooges. Slip was famous for his Brooklyn-accented malaprops like "I depreciate it!" ("I appreciate it!"), and "I regurgitate" ("I reiterate").
In the 1940s, Abbott and Costello appeared in four "service comedies", one for each branch of the military which the Bowery Boys duplicated in the 1950s.The Bowery Boys, also like Abbott and Costello before them, became detectives when they opened up a detective agency. They also released other copies of Abbott and Costello story lines.
|Louie Dumbrowski (Bernard Gorcy)|
Gorcey was replaced by Stanley Clements, a former tough-teen actor who had been in a few East Side Kids movies and they were now billed as "Huntz Hall and The Bowery Boys."
The series was renewed for the 1957 season and four more films were made. In all, there were 48 Bowery Boys films, making it the longest feature-film series of American origin in motion picture history and only Huntz Hall and David Gorcey had remained with the series since 1946.
The Bowery Boys and East Side Kids were repackaged and syndicated for television in the 1960s and 1970s. They became a staple for independent stations and were often used to fill up the early-afternoon time-slots on weekends.
In 1967, The Beatles paid homage by selecting pictures of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall for the cover of their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The Gorcey photo was removed, however, after Gorcey's agent demanded a $400 payment for use of his image. You Tube has a number of episodes you can watch HERE.