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Gale Gordon
 
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Gale Gordon
(AKA Theodore J. Mooney, Harrison Otis Carter, Uncle Harry, Curtis McGibbon)

Born: February 2, 1906   Died: June 30, 1995

Born in New York City, NY as Charles T. Aldrich Jr., Gale Gordon was raised in England. His theatrical parents pushed him into show business to help him overcome being born with a cleft palate. His distinct manner of speaking, with long open vowels and crisp syllables, was orginally developed in speech therapy. He made his Broadway debut in The Dancers in the 1920s, but soon moved over to the new medium of radio. Gale became one of the busiest radio actors around, sometimes appearing in as many as twenty or thirty different shows a week. Along the way, he worked with many of the talents he would later encounter on television, including Doris Singleton, Shirley Mitchell, Frank Nelson, Mary Jane Croft, Jimmy Durante, and Dennis Day. He was loved by almost everyone he encountered, except for a strange antipathy he had toward Mel Blanc. Perhaps it was because they were often competitors for the same types of acting jobs, but the two men just did not get along.

During World War II, Gale served with distinction as a Coast Guard skipper, where he commanded a war-zone landing craft off the coast of California. Shortly after the war, he met his wife, actress Virginia Curley, while doing an episode of radio's Death Valley Days. Their marriage was a good luck omen for Gale's radio career, as he soon began playing lead roles such as Mayor LaTrivia on the classic Fibber McGee and Molley (1945). That kind of exposure brought him to the attention of producer Jess Oppenheimer, who cast him as Mr. Atterbury on the radio comedy My Favorite Husband (1948-51) with Lucille Ball.

Gale found his niche as stuffy, blustery characters on "Our Miss Brooks" (1952). In his early film appearances, he usually played stuffy military officers. Gale was at his best when he had to deliver the "slow burn" take. He also played the usually silent Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come with spoken dialogue in the Ronald Colman 78 RPM (later issued on LP) album of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".

Lucille adored his style of comedy delivery, and forever after, she was fiercly loyal to Gale. He soon started doubling up in starring radio appearances when he was cast as Osgood Conklin in "Our Miss Brooks". Although budgetary constraints kept Gale from becoming Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, by the time Desilu brought "Our Miss Brooks" to television, there was enough money to pay him to give up radio and play Conklin. Gale made two I Love Lucy guest appearances, as well as one with the Arnazes in 1958 on one of their hour-long shows. Thereafter, Gale was never out of TV work unless by choice. When "Our Miss Brooks" finally went off the air (on radio and television), Gale and Bob Sweeney went on to star in "The Brothers" for one season (1956-57), followed by "Sally" (1958). When that ended, Gale moved to another Desilu sound stage or two, when he played regular parts in both "The Danny Thomas Show" (1953-64) and "Pete and Gladys" (1960-62) simultaneously. When Joseph Kearns passed away during the filming of "Dennis The Menace", Gale stepped in to become another Mr. Wilson (1962-63). It was his obligation to Dennis that kept him from once again starting a TV series with Lucille Ball, this time The Lucy Show.

After Dennis' demise, Lucille snatched him up and never let him go again. After Lucille ended her twenty-three year reign as Queen of TV, Gale returned to his first love: theatre. He spent his summers taking plays all over Canada, while relaxing in the winters at his 150-acre ranch near Borrego Springs, California. There were other television guest spots, including two reunion specials with Lucille. However, no one was more surprised than Gale when he received the call to come back to TV series work when Lucille launched Life With Lucy in 1986. After that, Gale retired from show business (he was 80 years old) except for a cameo appearance on the TV sitcom, Hi Honey, I'm Home in 1991, once again playing Mr. Mooney.

Both Gale and Virginia were active in community projects. Gale was named honorary mayor of Borrego Springs and served as the president of its' Chamber of Commerce. When Virginia became ill and was put in a nursing home, Gale soon followed. He died at the Redwood Terrace Health Center in Escondido, California after a long battle with cancer.

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Theodore J. Mooney