Gale Gordon came by his “showbiz roots” honestly. Gale was born Charles Thomas Aldrich Jr., on 20 February
1906 to the British actress Gloria Gordon and her vaudevillian husband Charles Aldrich. When Gale was very young,
his family moved from America to England to seek theatrical employment. While in London, Gale received an
operation to fix his cleft palate. Had this not been fixed, this disability would have likely robbed him of any chance
of having speech.
Settling in New York in 1915, the family moved back to the United States. When he was 17, Gale was
sent off to England once again to attend Woodbridge School in Suffolk. Almost immediately upon his return, Gale
landed his first acting job in 1923. Like Lucille Ball, his first role was that of an extra in the Canadian production of
“The Dancers.” It was during this time that one of Gale’s most recognisable features - his voice - was perfected.
According to Gale, the star of “The Dancers”, Richard Bennett, detected that there was still something amiss in the
damaged voice of his young extra.
“I had forgotten all about my voice handicap by then but evidently Bennett, whose ear was as sharp as his
mind, saw possibilities for improvement. One day he placed me in the centre of the stage and stalked off to a
distant spot in the empty theatre's second balcony. ‘Whisper so I can hear you,’ he trumpeted. I whispered. I
whispered for days and found vocal muscles most people don’t know they have.”
Two years after his Canadian stage debut, Gale was in Hollywood doing various “Hollywood” odd jobs and
acting in various media. In 1926, Gale Gordon made his debut on the radio singing and playing a ukulele. It may have
seemed like a disastrous start to his radio career, but by the time 1933 rolled around he had risen to become the
highest paid radio actor in
Hollywood. Having appeared with the likes of Mary Pickford and Basil Rathbone, and appearing in such shows as the
Lux Radio Theatre, Flash Gordon, and Sherlock Holmes, radio eventually led him to a meeting with radio actress
Virginia Curley. They fell in love and married in December 1937.
With his booming voice, radio producers and casting personnel were reluctant to cast him in anything but
dramatic roles. In 1941, however, Gale got his big break into comedy when he appeared in a guest spot on Fibber
McGee and Molly. This guest spot landed him the regular role of the bombastic, “Mooney-ish” character of Mayor
LaTrivia. Gale played Mayor LaTrivia for 12 years and by 1947 Gale was doing double and sometimes triple duty on
various network radio shows.
The first show he “moonlighted” on was Our Miss Brooks. On Brooks, Gale played Osgood Conklin, the
“blustery” principal of the school that whacky English teacher Connie Brooks (Eve Arden) worked at. With the
Brooks cast being rounded out by Richard Crenna, Gale was a member of the Brooks team for many years. At the
same time, however, Gale was also making his debut as the highly professional banker Rudolph Atterbury (along with
Bea Benedaret playing his wife Iris) on Lucille Ball’s new radio sitcom “My Favorite Husband.” Husband was the
story of Liz Cugat (Later Cooper), played by Lucille Ball, the zany wife of Atterbury’s fellow banker George (Richard
Denning. The hilarious domestic situations that the Cugats/Coopers got themselves into made Husband a hit. CBS
eventually asked Lucille and Eve to bring their respective shows to television. Lucy brought her show to television
as the re-tooled “I Love Lucy.” It was originally hoped by Lucy that Gale and Bea could be brought over from radio
to play the roles of Fred and Ethel Mertz, but since Bea was already signed to appear as Blanche on The Burns and
Allen Show, and Gale felt obligated to stay on “Our Miss Brooks”. Their roles went to Vivian Vance and William
It was not until 1952, a year after I Love Lucy debuted, that Eve Arden allowed the Our Miss Brooks cross over
to television. With the success of I Love Lucy, it went to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s production company, Desilu,
to produce the show. Before production of Brooks got underway, Gale made his first TV appearances with Lucille
Ball in a two episode guest appearance on I Love Lucy as Alvin Littlefield, Ricky’s boss and owner of the Tropicana.
Four years later, Our Miss Brooks went off the air and Gale was able to pursue other options. With the popularity of
his Osgood Conklin character, CBS signed him to star in a sitcom called “The Brothers” co-starring Bob Sweeney. The
show was not successful and ended after twenty six episodes.
In 1958 Gale made his third television appearance with Lucy. He guest starred on the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
in an episode called “Lucy Makes Room For Danny.” In this show, he played a judge who had to settle breaches of
contracts and assault and battery cases between the Ricardos. the Mertzes, and the Williams’ (Danny Thomas and
his TV family). In a brilliant scene for both he and Lucy, Gale had the task of trying to figure out voiceless Lucy’s
testimony through charades. After this appearance on the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Gale landed a semi-regular role
in the new Desilu spin-off of December Bride called Pete And Gladys.
While e still appearing on Pete and Gladys, in 1962 Gale Gordon joined the cast of “Dennis The Menace,”
He was to play the “second” Mr. Wilson after the first, Joseph Kearns, had died. At the same time, however, Lucy
was planning her TV comeback after appearing on Broadway and largely taking a year off. Much to her chagrin, Gale
was again unavailable to appear on her show. Charles Lane (Homer Bedloe of Petticoat Junction and of numerous
other roles) was cast in Gale’s place as Lucy’s bank manager and executor of her husband’s estate, the sour Mr.
Barnsdahl. Soon after the first season of “The Lucy Show” began, Lucy heard that Dennis The Menace was going to
be cancelled and she immediately put a plan into place to snap up Gale as soon as he became available.
In 1963, Gale Gordon made his debut Theodore J. Mooney. He was introduced quickly on the series as Mr.
Barnsdahl’s replacement. In his first episode Lucy immediately got into a fight with him about an advance on her
allowance, accidentally shaved the head of his youngest son Arnold, and then in inimitable “Lucy” style, she locked
herself in the bank vault with him overnight, sold two pieces of uncooked macaroni to a “starving” Mooney for $50,
got let out of the vault and accidentally locked Mooney back in. From this two part season opener of The Lucy
Show, Gale was going to be with Lucy for the next 11 years.
1965 led to the fourth season of The Lucy Show. Long time “Lucy” co-star Vivian Vance had left the show
and a format change moved the locale of the show from New York to Los Angeles. In this format change, the Lucy-
Mooney relationship became more closely related as Mooney had hired her to be his secretary at his new bank. In
1968 , after summer breaks of making movies (most memorably playing yet another bank manager in Elvis Presley's
"Speedway), the format of the series changed again after the sale of Desilu Studios. The new format, “Here’s Lucy”,
had Gale playingHarrison Otis Carter, the “popular president of Carter’s Unique Employment Agency.” Lucille Ball
played his sister-in-law and secretary Lucy Carter while Ball’s real life children Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr., took
the roles of Lucy’s TV children Kim and Craig Carter. The show lasted until 1974 and the brilliant comedic magic that
Lucy and Gale had brought to the screen was at an end...for a while.
In the early 1980s, Ball was asked to develop a new sitcom for NBC. The result was a pilot called “Bungle
Abbey” that starred Gale as the Father at the monastery. The pilot was not sold, but in 1986, Lucy and Gale teamed
up again on “Life With Lucy” for ABC. The new sitcom had Lucy playing Lucy Barker a widow with a daughter and
two grandchildren. Gale’s character was Curtis McGibbon, a long time hardware salesman who’s son was married to
Lucy’s daughter. To complicate the situation, Lucy’s husband Sam had been Curtis’ business partner in M&B
Hardware and after his death, his stake in the store went to Lucy making she and Curtis business partners. The
series lasted only eight weeks and after that, Lucy and Gale more or less retired. Lucy made a number of
appearances on game shows and Bob Hope specials, and Gale went on to reprise his role as Theodore J. Mooney in
an episode of “Hi Honey, I’m Home."
Aside from acting, Gale was also a successful writer who, in the 1940s, had written two books, “Nursery
Rhymes for Babies” and “Leaves From the Story Trees.” He was also an accomplished painter with his works having
numerous showings to critical acclaim. During World War Two, Gale got experience in another field when he was a
member of the United States Coast Guard for four years. Although this job took him all over the world (mainly to the
far east), Gale never lost his passion for acting. In 1948 Gale went on a search for a mysterious tract of his mother
had bought many years ago by mail. He never found the land, but his quest took him to Borrego Springs, California.
In 1949,Gale and Virginia bought a 150 acre lot in Borrego Springs, California. On this land he built the ranch house,
garage, and studio himself. He also built all the furniture, installed his own plumbing and swimming pool. Not a ranch
for animals, Gale made use of his land by planting carob trees and harvesting the beans. With typical Mooney drive,
Gale eventually became “one of the few commercial carob tree growers in the US.” (Star Notes, Issue #9) In the mid
1950s, Gale became the president of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce and he was later appointed
Honorary Mayor of the town.
Gale Gordon died on 30 June 1995 of cancer at the Redwood Terrace Heath Centre in Escondido, California.
His beloved wife Virginia, with whom he celebrated their anniversary on the 27th of every month, had died there
two months earlier.