|Danger! Principal at work!
TV Guide: March 26, 1955
Vol. 3 No. 13
It is a matter of both fact and sentiment that Gloria Gordon, who has for so long played Mrs. O'Reilly on radio's "My Friend Irma" is the
mother of Gale Gordon, who still plays Osgood Conklin on both the radio and the TV versions of Our Miss Brooks. The broadcasting
industry can be very clubby.
The point, however, is not so much the clubbiness of broadcasting as the family tree of Gale Gordon. His mother is an actress. His
father was a vaudeville performer. His wife is an actress. The actors in the family stop here, however -- only because Gale has no
Gordon himself, in addition to being an actor, is a pipe-smoker. He is also a plumber, a carpenter, a fruit grower, an oil painter, a
playwright, a gun collector -- and one of the few actors in history to appear in a radio dramatic role without saying a word. He once
played the footsteps of the "Unknown Soldier."
Gordon, who has been doing the Osgood Conklin role since its radio inception back in 1948, figures it is just about a character actor's
dream. "There is nothing subtle about Osgood," he says contentedly. "No nuances. Just a lot of very satisfying acid, bluster, and
bellowing with an occasional weak moment of cordiality thrown in for leavening. It is practically impossible to overplay him. Even when
he's being cordial, he's like an elephant trying to waltz."
Just how well Gordon has established the Conklin character came out during a recent trip through New Jersey. At a small country
store, presided over by a little old woman, he was introduced as a man who played Osgood Conklin in Our Miss Brooks. The little old
woman, who had never before been so close to a celebrity, peered at him intently. "Why," she said in surprise, "he's just like a human
Aside from the fact that he is quite possibly the most accomplished bellower in Hollywood, Gordon is the personification of normality,
with no more than a surface resemblance to Eve Arden's nemesis. An actor for 30 yeas, he is the most solid of solid citizens.
Gordon, whose deep, cultured tones are the envy of his profession, was at one time the highest paid radio actor in Hollywood. That
was in 1933 when he was demanding -- and getting -- $15 a week for playing in "English Coronets." Two years later every radio actor in
town was auditioned for the lead opposite Mary Pickford in her own show. One of the finalists, Hanley Stafford, went on to become the
most hapless father in radio history, opposite (if that's the right word) Baby Snooks. The other, who won the role, was Gordon. It paid
him $100 a wek and made him practically royalty. Thereafter, he hit just about every big-time show on radio. He was Barbara Whiting's
father on "Junior Miss," Lucille Ball's boss [sic] on "My Favorite Husband, the mayor for 12 years on "Fibber McGee and Molly" and, for
seven years, Irene Rich's leading man on "Dear John."
Gordon was born 50 years ago in New York City but spent virtually all of his first eight years in England. The following nine years he
spent in New York City schools, hating every minute of it because it apparently took him that long to get over the fact that in New
York one did not wear short trousers in grade school. The little New Yorkers threw stones at him when he first appeared in his correct
English garb, and the impression lasted a good deal longer than the black and blue marks. "The character of Osgood Conklin," he says
darkly, "was not only born but pickled in vinegar during those nine years. I hated school, from the principal on down."
Not until he returned to England at 18 did Gordon begin to like school. It was there, too, that he picked up his flawless diction, which
John Barrymore once said was the best of anyone on the stage, radio, or screen.
Like most accomplished if unsung radio actors, Gordon is an expert dialectician. It may come as a shock to the younger fans of Our
Miss Brooks to learn that Mr. Conklin once played the fabulous Texas millionaire, drawl and all, on the Burns and Allen radio show, and
Inspector Lastrade, complete with Cockney overtones, on "Sherlock Holmes" with Basil Rathbone. On one particularly low-budgeted
"Gangbusters" episode in the old radio days, he played the weak-kneed killer, the cop who arrested him, and "the siren who presaged
the advent of the cop."
A man like that just has to be a success.