Leo Vincent Gordon (December 2, 1922 – December 26, 2000) was a film and television character actor, screenplay writer and novelist.
Gordon was born in Brooklyn in New York City on December 2, 1922 and raised poverty during the Great Depression. He left school in the eighth grade, went to work in construction and demolition, and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.
He enlisted in the Army in 1941, served two years and received an undesirable discharge. (Undesirable discharge refers to discharge "conditions other than honorable.” It is generally given to a member of the military who does not qualify for an honorable discharge. An undesirable discharge does not involve punishment.)
Afterwards, he drifted to California where he attempted to rob a bar (and its patrons) the police showed up and in the ensuing gun battle Gordon was shot in the stomach. He recovered and was sentenced to five years in San Quentin Prison.
After prison he entered the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (ADA) on the GI bill and took acting lessons. Also enrolled in the same class was Grace Kelly and Anne Bancroft. For a time, Jason Robards, later a two-time Academy Award winner, was Gordon's instructor. He met his wife Lynn around that time. They stayed married for fifty years.
He appeared in several films but in the mid-1950 turned to television. His six0foot-two size, broad build and, intense features and his deep menacing voice, made him the perfect film bad guy.
While working with John Wayne in the film Hondo (1953), Gordon played a villain who gets killed by Wayne. Gordon recalled “In the scene . . . where he kills me down by the stream, I reach for my gun and he shoots me. I buckled up and pitched forward. Wayne hollered, "Cut! Cut!", even though John Farrow was directing. Wayne says to me, "What was that? When you get hit in the gut with a slug you go flying backwards". I pulled up my shirt to show him where I'd really been shot in the gut [by police while being arrested for armed robbery many years previously]: "Yeah? I got hit point blank and I went forward".
He turned to script writing and wrote Black Patch (1957) The Cry Baby Killer, featured a young and unknown Jack Nicholson, You Can't Win 'Em All (1970) starring Tony Curtis and Charles Bronson, Tobruk (1967), which starred Rock Hudson and George Peppard. As a television screenwriter he wrote nearly 50 scripts for Bonanza, Cheyenne and Maverick.
In 1997 he received the Golden Boot Award for his many years of work in westerns. In accepting the award the actor simply flashed a smile for his fans and remarked, "Thank God for typecasting"
After struggling with a brief illness, Gordon died of cardiac failure in his sleep, aged 78, at his home in Los Angeles, California, on December 26, 2000.