William "Billy" Halop


February 11, 1920 ~ November 9, 1976


BILLY HALOP - LEADER OF THE DEAD END KIDS

PART ONE



- According to the book, "The Films Of The Bowery Boys" by Hayes and Walker, Billy Halop was born on May 11, 1920, but on his death certificate the date of birth is listed as February 11, 1920


IN THE BEGINNING....

1920 - 1926


 


- William G. Halop was born in Brooklyn, New York on

February 11, 1920, to Benjamin and Lucille Halop. He had

a sister, Florence, who would follow him into show business and a brother, Joel.


- Halop, unlike his screen characters, was born into an

upper middle class family. His father was a lawyer for Trunz

Meat Packing and his mother had been a dancer. While he was still young the family moved to Long Island where the

Halop children were brought up.


 


FROM RADIO STAR TO BROADWAY STAR

1926 - 1935



- In 1926, when he was six years old, Billy made his professional debut when a small radio station wanted to use some of the children from the private school he was attending for roles in their broadcasts. He was joined by sister Florence, and together they would appear on several children shows.

 


- Between 1926 and 1933 he appeared on two children shows - "The Children's Hour" (aka - Coast To Coast On A Bus) and "Lets Pretend".  In 1933 he would get a role that would make him a house hold name.

 


- In 1932 the radio show, "The H - Bar - O Rangers", made its debut on radio, and was broadcast from Buffalo, New York. Eleven year old actor Richard Wanamaker played Bobby Benson. The first season knocked out 78 episodes when the season ended in March 1933 and was so popular that CBS decided to move the production to New Year City and revamp the cast and crew. When the show aired in the fall, the actor playing Bobby Benson was twelve year old Billy Halop. The show was still called "The H - Bar - O Rangers", but it became known to the fans as "The Bobby Benson Hour". Florence was cast as Polly Armstead. Among the players was another future "Dead Ender" named Huntz Hall. Bobby Benson made young Halop famous and during the follwing summer he went on tour with the W. T. Johnson Circus Rodeo playing Bobby.


 


BROADWAY STAR TO MOVIE STAR

THE MAKING OF A DEAD END KID

1935 - 1937



- Billy Halop would continue to work in radio until the late 1950s and at times was the only work he could get. In the early 30s he starred as Skippy in the show "Skippy" and at twelve he played Romeo in the radio version of "Romeo And Juliet". Halop also had a role in "A Midsummer Nights Dream" as the character "Puck" and would become a regular on "The March Of Time".

 


- In 1935 he was a radio star earning $750 a week. He had a business manager and agent and was doing quite well for himself when he was cast as the leader of a street gang in Sidney Kingsley's Broadway play, "Dead End". He was the first of what would become known as the Dead End Kids, to be cast. Since he was a star and had more experience than the others, he was paid more money and was given his own dressing room, which led to resentment. From the very beginning he didn't get along with most of the kids and the only one that remained a life long friend was Gabe Dell.

 


- On October 28, 1935 "Dead End" opened at the Belasco Theater where it remained for 268 performances before closing on June 12, 1937. Billy, making his Broadway debut was cast as Tommy, the leader of the gang. His fellow Dead Enders were Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Gabe Dell, Bernard Punsley and Charles R. Duncan, who was cast as Spit. Leo and David Gorcey were cast as the "Second Avenue" boys. Leo would replace Duncan in the role of Spit (and the rest is history). While he was on Broadway in "Dead End", Billy continued to work on radio. In 1936 he was on the children's show "Our Barn", and from July to November he was on the serial, "Home, Sweet Home", which told the story of Fred and Lucy Dick and their son Kent, played by Halop. In November he joined singer John McCormick and actor Hurbert Munden, as guests on "The Royal Geltan Hour With Graham McNamee. "Dead End" closed on June 12, 1937 and the boys headed to Hollywood to appear in the screen version of "Dead End" for Sam Goldwyn. Hollywood would never be the same.


BROADWAY STAR TO MOVIE STAR

THE DEAD END KIDS INVADE TINSEL TOWN.

1937 - 1939



- Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn had out bid David O. Selznick for the film rights of "Dead End", paying $165,000. He hired William Wyler to direct. But when Wyler said he wanted to film it on location in the slums of New York, Goldwyn spent $50,000 to build an entire set at the Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood. (Selznick had bid $150,000) The budget was $900,000. Filming took place between May 3 and June 26 1937. Retakes were shot on July 6,7 and 8, 1937. On the set the kids waged war with anyone and everyone - from Goldwyn, who they called "Pop" to Wyler - whose office phone bill they ran up calling their families in New York. When Goldwyn wouldn't let them go swimming everyday, they told a reporter that they "had a bone to pick with him".

It was open season and everybody on the lot was fair game. Causing trouble and pissing people off was their favorite way to kill time while waiting to film their scenes. When they weren't stirring up trouble on the lot, they were causing problems in Los Angeles traffic. Gorcey collected four traffic tickets in eighteen days; Jordan, who was too young to drive, got a ticket for driving and Gabe and Huntz drove their Model T into a telephone pole. Punsley kept himself out of trouble by spending his free time reading books. "Dead End" premiered in New York City on August 24, 1937 and was released nation wide on August 27. Know that "Dead End" was in the can and on the screen, Sam Goldwyn had no more use for the Dead End Kids and sent them packing. He shipped them to Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, where they would make six films between 1938 and 1939.


THE WARNER YEARS


- Jack L. Warner was used to dealing with difficult stars, from George Raft to Bette Davis to Bogart, Cagney and Flynn, so he was the perfect person to handle the Dead End Kids. Their first film for Warners was "Crime School", for which they were paid $275 a week. Humphrey Bogart, who had starred with them in "Dead End" (and would join them in one more movie) was the star of the film. He got along well with them, but that didn't stop the boys from getting him down and pulling his pants off or from throwing fire crackers in his dressing room. The production on "Crime School" was from January to

March 1938 and cost $186,000. Billy played the role of "Frankie Warren" along side Gale Page who played the role of his sister "Sue Warren."

 


- After "Crime School" was complete, Warner's dropped the contracts of Halop, Huntz, Dell and Punsly who went to Universal to make "Little Tough Guy", and kept Gorcey and Jordan. But, when "Crime School" was released on May 28, 1938 and grossed over two million dollars Warners tucked their tails between their legs and convinced Billy, Huntz, Gabe and Bernard to come back to them. Since their contracts had been torn up, the kids were given new contracts and a raise. They would make $1,650 a week. (It's been said that the person who had let the four kids go was director Mervyn LeRoy, who himself was let go for this blunder. He headed to MGM where he directed "The Wizard Of Oz"). Sam Goldwyn wanted to erase any connection between his name and the kids, and when Warner's decided to bill them as The Crime School Kids, he was all for it. But, as far as the public was concerned, they were and would always be known as The Dead End Kids.

 


- Their first film under their new contract and their second for Warner's was "Angels With Dirty Faces" starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and Bogart (their last film together) and Ann Sheridan. Billy took on the role of Soapy, the gang leader. Filming took place between June and August 1938. As usual they terrorized the cast and crew, but when they tried to upstage Jimmy Cagney - he took them to school. When Gorcey ad-libbed a line to Cagney, he was rewarded with a punch in the nose. When Halop goofed his lines Cagney rewarded him with the same treatment. They straightened up for the rest of shooting. "Angels" was released on November 24, 1938.

 


- Their next movie, "They Made Me A Criminal" starred John Garfield, and was filmed on location in Palm Desert, California from August to October 1938. Billy played the role of Tommy.      The movie was released on January 28, 1939                                                 


-Billy made his first non - kids film for Warners when he was cast as Johnny Stone in "You Can't Get Away With Murder", starring Bogart. Gale Page once again played his sister, this time named Madge Stone. Production took place between September and October 1938 and was released May 20, 1939.

 


-On May 26 1938 the kids appeared on "The Eliza Schalert Show", a fifteen minute radio interview show. As Schalert interviewed them, they came off like their screen characters, but they seemed to be having a good time.

 


-The next two Dead End Kid pictures would star the future President Of The United States - Ronald Reagan. They were "Hell's Kitchen" and "Angels Wash Their Faces", both filmed and released in 1939. In "Dust Be My Destiny" with John Garfield, Billy and Bobby Jordan played brothers Hank and Jimmy Glenn and was released September 16, 1939. Production for "On Dress Parade" began on June 8, 1939 and filmed at the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, California. It was released on November 11, 1939. This was the last time the original Dead End Kids would ever appear together.

 


-The future looked bright for Billy Halop. From 1939 to 1942 he worked at Universal in Dead End Kid style films and continued working on radio. As one of his street gang characters might say "Yeah, everything's gonna be all right".


 

 


BILLY HALOP - LEADER OF THE DEAD END KIDS


PART TWO

1939 - 1949



- As 1939 came to an end, so did the Dead End Kids. Billy Halop moved over to Universal where he would make a dozen films between 1939 and 1943. On radio he could be heard on "Lady Next Door", "Good News For 1940" and "Arch Oboler's Plays". During that time he left Universal and his role as street gang leader on two different occasions to appear in two different pictures.

 


- In 1940 he was in RKO's "Tom Brown's School Days" as Flashman. And from June to July 1941 he was back at Warners in "Blues In The Night", which is about a band who gets involved playing in a casino run by a mobster. Billy was the band's drummer, Peppi.  In 1942 he made "Mug Town" which also starred Hall, Dell & Punsley and was released January 22, 1943 -this was his last movie before entering the military. Billy enlisted in the military on August 31, 1942 joining the Signal Corps and later becoming Sergeant . He was stationed in the Special Services and performed in productions in Europe. He was discharged in 1946 and returned to Hollywood, where he found it hard to find work. "When I came back to California in 1946, no one remembered who I was. I did a picture called "Dangerous Years" with Marilyn Monroe, her first, but my last", he told the National Enquirer in a 1974 interview. He said that he had once been making $1,000 a week, living on a ranch dating Judy Garland and driving a big car. "Now I'm living in a friend's house and I drive a 1962 Ford Convertible". When one studio wanted to put him in another Dead End Kid type picture he said he wasn't interested. He joined the stage company of "Golden Boy" and toured U.S. Army bases in Europe.


- In May 1946, 26 year old Billy Halop went to

Las Vegas and married a 23 year old New York

actress, Helen Tupper. She became his first of three wives.

 They were divorced on January 14 1947.


- On February 14, 1948 Halop again walked down the

aisle when he married 36 year old Barbara Hoon in

Palm Springs. Between 1947 and 1949 Billy made only three films -

"Dangerous Years" (1947), billed as William Halop. "Too Late For Tears" - uncredited role of Boat Attendant, was filmed in 1949 but wasn't released until 1951. Also in 1949 he was in "Challenge Of The Range", billed once again as William Halop. This would be his last film role until 1955.  On June 3, 1949 he appeared on "This Is Your FBI"

in the episode "The Hungry Wrestler".  It was during the mid forties when both his first marriage and his career took nose dives that Billy's problems with booze began. He went on to have a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide.


1950 - 1959


 

- With his film career all but over, Billy went back to radio.

From 1950 to 1953 he appeared on episodes of "Broadway Is My Beat", "This Is Your FBI" and "Suspense".



- On January 2, 1953 Billy made his television debut on the series, "Racket Squad", in the episode, "Accidentally On Purpose". He played a salesman. During the fifties Billy was kept busy with his work on radio and television, though he made fewer and fewer radio appearances. Old time radio was on its way out the door, as was going to the movies. The small screen had replaced both. On television he could be seen in episodes of "Footlight Theater", "Favorite Story", "Cisco Kid", "Robert Montgomery Presents", "Telephone Time" and "Richard Diamond - Private Detective". (from 1952 - 1959)

 


- On May 10, 1954, he appeared on "Favorite Story", in the episode "The Law And The Lady". This would be his last TV appearance until 1957. In June of that year he called the Los Angeles Police Department and told them that he had taken eight sleeping pills (which is said to be untrue) and that his wife had left him. He was locked up on a drunk charge and received a five day suspended sentence. By the early fifties he had a serious drinking problem. "My rejection in Hollywood made me feel unwanted. I started drinking to escape. One morning in 1953 I woke up and didn't who or where I was. The next thing I knew, I was in a State hospital and had two series of shock treatments. That brought my memory back".  He joined Alcoholics Anonymous and sobered up.

 


- In 1955 he made his first film in six years. In "Airstrike" he played Lt. Commander Orville Swanson. It starred Stanley Clements. There would be no more film roles for another seven years. There would be no more radio work until 1958. There would be no more television roles until 1957. Everything seemed to just dry up for Billy Halop.


- On January 12 1957 he was back on TV on "Telephone Time", in the episode "The Jumping Parsons".

 


- On March 5 1958 his ten year marriage came to an end

when he and Barbara split up. They were divorced in

January 1959.

 


- In April he made his first of three appearances on the radio show "Your's Truly Johnny Dollar". (He made his second appearance in June and his third and last on July 19 1959. This is his last known radio show appearance) Billy went to work as an electric dryer salesman for the Leonard Appliance Company Of Los Angeles, where he turned out to be a excellent salesman and received recognition in the field being named "Most Creative Salesman In The United States" by the National Association Of Manufacturers.


1960 - 1969



-In 1960 Halop was working as the head chef at "Ted's Rancho" in Malibu, when he met Suzanne Roe, a multiple - sclerosis victim. He said that she was his first love and they were married on December 17, 1960. He gave up his job as head chef and planned to go back to school and get a medical degree. Though he was in his early forties, his friends discouraged him, saying he was too old. He decided to become a Registered Nurse so he could care for his wife. He went to work at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. During the sixties Billy found steady work on television. He appeared on "The Andy Griffith Show", "Perry Mason", "Ozzie And Harriett", "The Fugitive", "Gomer Pyle", "The FBI", "Gunsmoke", "Adam - 12" and "Land Of The Giants". He had small roles in four films from 1963 - 1967. He was working more than he had in years. He and his wife were living in Pacific Palisades, but in 1967 they were divorced and he moved into a trailer court. In 1969 he was cast in the television series "Braken's World". He had a small role as Pat, the studio projectionist. It ran from September 19 1969 - December 25, 1970. There were 41 episodes.


1970 - 1976



-On February 9, 1971 Billy made his first appearance on the hit comedy "All In The Family", as Barney . From February 23, 1972 to February 9, 1976 he was cast as cab driver Burt Munson, who hung out with Archie Bunker at Kelsey's Bar. In 1974 he played the movie studio engineer in the made for TV movie "Phantom Of The Lot". In the July 27, 1974 issue of The Star was an article on the Dead End Kids titled - "Where Are They Now"? It was about the recent Dead End Kid cult movement. Interviewed for the article were Stanley Clements, Gabe Dell, Huntz Hall and Billy Halop, who was 53 / 54 at the time. When he was asked what he thought about the movies of today, he didn't hold back. "They stink. None of them, aside from the Disney films and the musicals are entertainment. They're full of pornography and leave nothing to the imagination". When asked what he thought about the Dead End Kid cult following, he said: "I think this cult thing around our old movies is great if we'd get paid for it. But we don't get a dime in residuals". At the time of the interview he just finished "Phantom Of The Lot". "I was wealthy at 21. We all were. But then things went awry. I don't know if the fame came too soon for us or what, but a lot of the guys had personal problems their whole lives". By the mid seventies Billy was living with a friend at 11402 Burnham in West Hollywood. He had suffered two coronaries and on November 9, 1976 he died in his sleep from a heart attack at the age of 56. He was survived by his mother, sister and brother. He was buried in a crypt at

Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.


Timeline Contribution: Bob Siler


 


 

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