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.
He 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.
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.”
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.
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)
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).
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".
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.
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.
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.
"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).
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.
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".
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.
Page first published on Aug 8. 2016
Latest update Aug 8, 2016
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