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Listen to Ted De Corsia in Message in Red (1940)...Ted de Corsia (Sep 29,1905 - Apr 11,1973)

Young Ted de Corsia


Length: 5' 11" (1,8 m)
(1) Mary P. Robertson (Jan 11, 1934  - 1935, divorced)
Rachel Thurber (1939 - ?, divorced)
     Daughters: Deidre of San Francisco
                          Carey (?)
Sister: Adelaide (Mar 8. 1900 - ?) who married John Edelstein (1923), they had a child Maurice (about 1924).

Edward Gildea de Corsia was born September 29, 1905, in King's County, Brooklyn, NY. He was the only son of Edward G. de Corsia, a vaudeville actor from Texas, and Helen Lesage (aka Reilly, Rielly, O’Rielley, O’Reilley) a former school teacher turned actress of New York.
They performed as Ed or Edward de Corsia and company' (with 'Miss' Helen Le Sage) in a skit written by his father called 'Red Ike'. "This sketch is not to be judged from its title, which sounds rather dramatic, while, on the contrary, the playlet is a succession of laughs from start to finish and considered almost without equal as a laugh producer." Because his parents’ career took them from town to town Ted attended school at various stopovers in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and other cities.

A picture of Edward de Corsia, vaudeville entertainer and Ted de Corsia's fatherHe also inherited his parents’ affinity for the stage – his first experience as a performer reportedly came at the age of six, when he appeared in Red Ike. He gained early experience as a child in touring road companies. (1914-22)

As a young man, de Corsia attended night school, earning money during the daylight hours as a plumber, electrician, and salesman. He also worked for a time as a short-order cook, which led de Corsia to open his own restaurant in Brooklyn – the venture was “an artistic success but a financial flop,” the actor later said. With his failed restaurant attempt behind him, de Corsia decided in 1923-24 to try his hand in the relatively new medium of radio, and found that he was an instant success.

He was a member of Orson Welles’ famed Mercury Players and eventually, the actor formed his own company, The Monticello Players. As de Corsia’s radio career continued to flourish, he took time out to appear on Broadway in The Father Returns, (one of 4 parts of Little Theater Tournament) which closed shortly after its May 1929 opening, and as Theodore de Corsia in the 1930 production of Scarlet Sister Mary, starring Ethel Barrymore, whom de Corsia labeled “the greatest actress in America and the most interesting person I have ever met.” 
Covering all bases he even registered a musical song called 'We're Sweethearts, we too" in 1932

On Jan 11, 1934 Ted was first married to Mary Robertson. They divorced in ‘35. He married Rachel Thurber in ‘39.

Ted de Corsia was a big fella with a rather gravelly voice enhanced by a strong Brooklyn accent which led him into playing tough guy and bad guy roles for the most part. On occasion he would turn up as a Judge or perhaps a policeman but generally he was one of the "evildoers". He was a fine actor and the partial listing of his radio roles will illustrate his afore-mentioned versatility.

Blackstone Plantation: (Variety- CBS-Radio then NBC-Radio 1929-1933) talk, songs and music with hosts Frank Crumit and Julia Sanderson. de Corsia was a regular cast member (as was Santos Ortega).

The March of Time (documentary, CBS Radio - NBC Blue-  NBC Red and ABC-Radio, 1931-1945 inclusive) were sponsored by TIME magazine. This excellent program which dramatized current news events and also interviewed those individuals which helped make the news by using talented actors who could wonderfully well mimic the newsmakers of the day such as the superb Agnes Moorehead who did a great Eleanor Roosevelt! During nine years de Corsia was a recurring regular and often called upon to portray Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, President Herbert Hoover and Huey Long, among others. Ted (also an excellent animal mimic) was famous for his Hoover imitations during the ex-President's incumbency in the White House, but after Hoover's decline the luckless March of Timer almost disappeared from the program. When General Johnson started to capture the headlines however, Ted learned the General's tricks of delivery and pronunciation by listening to the radio and studying the newsreels. His versatility in radio was the stuff of legend – on one occasion, he was scheduled to perform in a two-man dramatic program, but before the show went on the air it was learned that the other actor could not make it to the station. So de Corsia went on alone – playing both parts.

Don Winslow of the Navy (Adventure series, NBC-Blue 1937-1944 then ABC-Radio 1944). Raymond Edward Johnson (eventually the somber host of "Inner Sanctum") starred in the title role in these tales of a Commander in the U. S. Navy and de Corsia was a cast member.

In The Buddy Clark Show, (Variety, CBS-Radio then Mutual 1938-1939) singer Clark hosted along with regular cast members Anne Elstner (the "soap's" "Stella Dallas"), Nan Wynn and Ted de Corsia.

Around October ‘39 he became Sergeant Velie on CBS’ “Adventures of Ellery Queen". During the New York broadcasts, Ted de Corsia owned a poultry farm near New York, often selling his eggs to other members of the Ellery Queen cast and production crew.  Ted played the role until late 1946 (and reprised it when Ford Theatre re-ran a first season episode "Bad Boy", 1 hour long with Howard Lindsay as host and following actors: Hugh Marlowe (EQ), Santos Ortega (IQ), Ted De Corsia (Velie), Charlotte Keane (Nikki) (1-4-48)

(From L to R) Ellery Queen (Sydney Smith), Ted De Corsia as Sergeant Velie and Santos Ortega as Inspector Queen in The Adventures of Ellery Queen(about 1943-1946) Ted de Corsia was a regular cast member in 'Big Town' as "Eddie, the cab driver"

In The Shadow (CBS-Radio-NBC-Radio- Mutual 1930-1954 inclusive) one of radio's most famous shows, de Corsia (1945-1946) was one of six fine actors who portrayed Commissioner Weston (Santos Ortega being one of the other six).

Big Town
(Crime drama, CBS-Radio-NBC-Radio-CBS-Radio 1937-1952) which starred film actor Edward G. Robinson as "Steve Wilson, editor of the Illustrated Press" had stories based on real newspaper files. Film actress Claire Trevor was his lovely sidekick "Lorelei Kilbourne" and de Corsia was a regular cast member as "Eddie, the cab driver". (Later on TV during 1953 -54 he guest starred in the same CBS series).

The Columbia Workshop
(Anthology, CBS-Radio 1936-1947) was a program inaugurated by CBS-Radio as a showcase for aspiring radio actors and writers to "do their stuff" and it was an enormous help to so many. de Corsia co-starred with Agnes Moorehead in "A Crop of Beans" (Feb 16, 1941) the tale of struggling farmers during the Depression. In "He Should Have Stood In Elba" (Apr 12, 1942) he appeared opposite Nathan Van Cleave.

Home of the Brave (Soap, CBS-Radio 1/6/41 - 9/19/41) a short-lived series told of Joe the telephone linesman madly in love with the pretty girl Casino who does not return his affection and his vain attempts to change her mind. Ted played "Patrick Mulvaney".

A life-long Brooklyn Dodgers fan, Ted de Corsia even went as far as to ask the announcer to announce on air The Bums' scores during relevant performances of Joe and Mabel (Comedy- NBC-Radio 1941-42). Joe was a Brooklyn cab driver in love with the beautiful manicurist Mabel. She was ready to get married but Joe was altar-allergic and Mabel was out to change his mind. Ted played "Joe Sparton", the preacher-shy hero and Ann Thomas was his ever-lovin' "Mabel".

In Twenty-Six By Corwin (Anthology- CBS-Radio 5/4/41-11/9/41) de Corsia along with harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler and Frank Lovejoy ("Nightbeat") stars in the delightful comedy of an unprepossessing little harmonica player who becomes, of all things, a diplomat! Written and hosted by the brilliant writer Norman Corwin.

Saturday Showdown
(Variety, NBC-Radio 1943). John Gibson was the host and the Murtock sisters, Tommy Taylor and de Corsia were regulars on this program of music and songs.

McGarry and His Mouse (Comedy, NBC-Radio then Mutual 1946-1947) Dan McGarry is a young rookie policeman with the NYPD. The "Mouse" is what he affectionately calls his girlfriend Kitty Archer. Where Dan goes, so goes Mouse and Dan has a penchant for getting into trouble! de Corsia was the second of three actors to play Dan McGarry (1946). Ted left because a Hollywood film project kept him too busy to keep the role. Orson Welles, de Corsia’s old pal from the Mercury Theater days, had asked him to come to Hollywood. So de Corsia's first credited film role was in Welles's "The Lady from Shanghai" (1947) starring Orson and his soon-to-be bride Rita Hayworth.

In "Joe and Mabel" (1941-42) Ted played a Brooklyn cab driver "Joe Sparton", the preacher-shy hero and Ann Thomas was his ever-lovin' "Mabel". Among Ted de Corsia's most remembered roles was that of "Willie Garzah the Harmonica" who famously fell to his death from a steel-girdered bridge in Jules Dassin’s in "The Naked City" (1948)

Among his most remembered roles was that of "Willie Garzah the Harmonica" who famously fell to his death from a steel-girdered bridge in Jules Dassin’s in "The Naked City" (1948) with Barry Fitzgerald and Howard Duff.

In Pursuit (Crime drama- CBS-Radio 1949-1952) Ted was cast in the role of first Inspector Harvey of Scotland Yard, then quickly changing to Inspector Peter Black of Scotland Yard by the second episode of the series. Ted de Corsia left the production during March of 1950.

Mr. President (Drama, ABC-Radio 1947-1953) starring film character actor Edward Arnold in little known episodes in the lives of various U. S. presidents. He was supported by William Conrad (radio's Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke") and Betty Lou Gerson. At times Ted de Corsia served as performer, narrator (1950-53).

Obviously, from the above listings, de Corsia was able to perform well in just about every type of acting role available to him. In 1951 he took over Orson Welles's role in the Lux Radio Theater presentation of "The Third Man")

Another outstanding movie role for de Corsia was that of "Rico" in "The Enforcer" (1951) which starred Humphrey Bogart as a police lieutenant. This movie allegedly was based on real-life crime happenings such as the criminal "Rico's" falling out of a window to his death, while in custody, after turning state's evidence. It did happen in an actual police case.

Opposite Humphrey Bogart in "The Enforcer" (1951) One of many times Ted de Corsia was called upon to play Chief or 'Indian' here in New Mexico (1951)

"A Place in the Sun" (1951) with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift  (a "good guy" role for a change, he played the Judge).

That Hammer Guy (Crime drama- Mutual 1952-1954) another tale of a tough NY-based private eye who loves women,  gets beaten up regularly, and is always involved with criminals in one way or another. Based on a Mickey Spillane character "Hammer" which was played by Ted de Corsia during the entire Hollywood production run (Nov 24, 1953 - Oct 1954).

When film and TV work began to occupy more of his time, he dropped out of radio in the early ‘50s. His film career could certainly be called much more than moderately successful.

Films with which de Corsia was affiliated included: "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954) with James Mason as the mad Capt. Nemo,  co-starring Kirk Douglas and  de Corsia as Capt. Farragut; "Man With the Gun" (1955) opposite Robert Mitchum.

1956 proved a very busy year for the actor with films such as: "The Killing" and "Mohawk", another gangster flick "Slightly Scarlet" with John Payne, "Dance With Me Henry" were de Corsia cavorted with the zanies Abbott and Costello, and  "The Kettles in the Ozarks" were de Corsia even joined Ma and Pa. But one film from that year many remember is "The Conqueror" not for particularly happy reasons. The film was directed by Dick Powell (the singer turned excellent actor and director) and starred the great John Wayne in the title role. The movie was shot, evidently for scenery purposes, near a nuclear test site in Utah. It is alleged that many of the people connected with this film eventually died of cancer (due to, and caused by, or accredited to the film site). Included were its stars, John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Powell himself and Ted de Corsia.... We will never know for certain.

The following year brought us: "Gunfight at the OK Corral" (1957) starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas (de Corsia was "Shanghai Pierce"), the gangster flick "Baby Face Nelson" (1957) starring Mickey Rooney, and "The Joker is Wild" (1957) with Frank Sinatra playing the embattled comedian Joe E. Lewis.

Other performances include the role of "Police Chief Hagedorn" in TV's "Steve Canyon" (1959) from the comic strip created by Milton Canniff.

Ted de Corsia with Ina Balin opposite Paul Newman in a scene from  "From The Terrace" (1960) In the TV series "Shirley Temple's Storybook" Ted is a police officer playing in the episode  "Pippi Longstocking" (1961) with Gina Gillespie and Wiliam EdmundsonTed with Cameron Mitchell in "Inside the Mafia" (1959) Ted de Corsia (left) with Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum in "Five Card Stud" 1968

In 1960 he was "Ralph Benziger" in "From the Terrace" a potboiler starring the handsome blue-eyed Paul Newman and his stunning wife Joanne Woodward and he was "Buffalo Horn" in "Oklahoma Territory"(1960). Other movies included "King of Kings" (1961) with Jeffrey Hunter, "It's Only Money" (1962) with Jerry Lewis in which de Corsia was a policeman (again good guy), "Blood on the Arrow" in 1964 were he played "Jud".

One of his vilest, most depraved characters was created in Audie Murphy’s “Quick Gun(1964). Leading lady Merry Anders thought, “He was just great though. Just perfect as his character. It helped me in a way because I was supposedly so terrified of him I was speechless.”

He was "Captain McTigue" in "The King's Pirate" (1967), "Eldon Bates" in "Five Card Stud" (1968) opposite Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum.

Seems he covered all bases and had a most successful and steady film career but de Corsia had his share of television work as well appearing in episodes of. among others: The Twilight Zone, Get Smart, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Green Acres, Perry Mason, Death Valley Days and an episode of The Monkees' second season in 1968 when he appeared in "The Devil and Peter Tork".

In an episode of The Monkees' second season in 1968 Ted de Corsia appeared in "The Devil and Peter Tork" as Blackbeard. In "The Outside Man" (1973) starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ted de Corsia played the mobster Victor.

Ted's last film was the French-made movie "The Outside Man" (1973) starring Jean-Louis Trintignant  in which he played the mobster Victor. After his character is killed, de Corsia later appears as his embalmed corpse, posed in a chair, holding a cigar.

Ted de Corsia was divorced and living at 320 North Lapeer Ave. in Beverly Hills, California. He died April 11, 1973, in Encino, Los Angeles, at 67 of cerebral thrombosis. He’d been a patient at West Valley Community Hospital for two weeks prior to his death. His body was willed to medical science.
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(1) Wikipedia
28. 2006 Old Time Radio column by the late Betsy W(einberg)
(4) RUSC

(5) Remembering Ted de Corsia
(6) IBDB and IBDB
(7) Noir’s Goon Squad: Ted de Corsia at

Additional video & audio sources
(1) Gunfight at the O.K. Coral (1957) film clip

(2) Crime Wave (1954) film clip
(3) The Big Combo (1955) film clip
(4) The Killing (1956) film clip

Page first published on Aug 8. 2016 
Latest update Aug 8, 2016

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