The original leader of the original "Dead End Kids," American actor Billy Halop came from a theatrical family; his mother was a dancer and his sister Florence was a busy radio actress. After several years as a well-paid radio juvenile, Billy was cast as Tommy Gordon in the Broadway production of Sidney Kingsley's Dead End (1935), where thanks to his previous credentials he was accorded star status. Travelling to Hollywood with the rest of the Dead End Kids when Samuel Goldwyn produced a film version of the play in 1937, Billy had no trouble lining up important roles, specializing in tough kids, bullies and reform school inmates in such major pictures as Dust be My Destiny (1939) and Tom Brown's School Days (1940). A long-standing rivalry between Halop and fellow Dead-Ender Leo Gorcey (both actors wanted to be the leader of the gang) led to Billy's breakaway from the Dead End Kids and its offspring groups, the East Side Kids and the Bowery Boys, though Halop briefly starred in Universal's "Little Tough Guys" films. After serving in World War II, Halop found that he'd grown too old to be effective in the roles that had brought him fame; at one point he was reduced to starring in a cheap "East Side Kids" imitation at PRC studios, Gas House Kids (1946). Diminishing film work, marital difficulties and a drinking problem eventually ate away at Halop's show business career. In 1960, he married a multiple sclerosis victim, and the nursing skills he learned while taking care of his wife led him to steady work as a registered nurse at St. John's Hospital in Malibu. For the rest of his life, Billy Halop supplemented his nursing income with small TV and movie roles, gaining a measure of latter-day prominence as Archie Bunker's cab-driving pal Bert Munson on the '70s TV series All in the Family. Billy passed away in his sleep from a heart attack on Nov 9/76, he was 56. He is in our hearts forever.
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