Sunday, December 2, 2012

Remembering Leo Gordon

Leo Vincent Gordon was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 2, 1922. He joined the Army in 1941, but chafed under military discipline and left the service after two years. He then drifted to Southern California, into crime and eventually to a four-year stretch at San Quentin Prison. After serving his time, he returned to New York and was working a construction job when he decided to use his military benefits to take acting classes. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he met his future wife, actress Lynn Cartwright [1927-2004]. They were married in 1950. Gordon went on to stage work and was discovered by a Hollywood agent in a Los Angeles production of "Darkness at Noon.'' Thus began a career that included over 185 films and TV shows, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Gordon, made good use of his broad-shoulders and steely blue eyes to create many memorable characters. Director Don Siegel, who used Gordon in his prison film "Riot in Cell Block 11" (1954), said that "Leo Gordon was the scariest man I have ever met."Riot in Cell Block 11" was filmed at San Quentin and several of the guards remembered Gordon from his time there, when he was regarded as a troublemaker. Prison officials would not let Gordon enter or leave the prison with the other cast and crew members; he was only allowed to enter and exit by himself and was thoroughly searched each time. Gordon was best known as a Western bad guy in films from 1953's "Hondo" to 1994's "Maverick." During the 1950s and 1960s, he seemed to make an appearance on virtually every Western TV show, from "Bonanza" to "Rin Tin Tin". For TV, he wrote about 50 scripts for shows such as "Bonanza'" and "Cheyenne," including 21 episodes of "Adam-12." Leo appeared in one Euro-western as Red in “My Name is Nobody” (1973). Gordon died of heart failure on December 26, 2000 in Los Angeles, California. When I met him at the Tuolumne Film Festival in the 1990s and asked for his autograph he said, “Sure, thanks for remembering me.” Today we all remember Leo Gordon on what would have been his 90th birthday. 


  1. Leo Gordon wrote some pretty good action pictures. He was such a great actor, too. I loved him in "Hondo."

  2. Tom,

    Thank you, he was/is one of my favourites


    David D