View Full Version : Movies and TV For the fans and viewers of TV series "The Untouchables"

01-31-2011, 02:25 PM
RIP Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon)


Bruce Gordon, 1916-2011

Bruce Gordon, an actor whose role as a mobster in the television series The Untouchables led to decades of tough-guy roles, died recently at his Santa Fe home.

"In spite of his long stint playing a criminal, he was — it sounds almost cornball — but he was a real gentle soul," local theater professional John Weckesser said Tuesday.

Gordon, who had lived on Tano Road since the 1970s, died Thursday, 12 days before he would have turned 95.

Born in Fitchburg, Mass., on Feb. 1, 1916, he was a member of the original Broadway cast of Arsenic and Old Lace in 1941. He played Officer Klein opposite Boris Karloff.

In 1948, he had an uncredited film role as a "cop at the Williamsburg Bridge," in the semi-documentary portrait of New York City, The Naked City.

That led to work in the 1950s and '60s in the blossoming medium of television playing "heavies" — police officers, detectives, prosecutors and even cowboys. He appeared in the Kraft Theatre, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, Have Gun — Will Travel, Gunsmoke, 77 Sunset Strip, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Maverick, Peter Gunn, Death Valley Days, Route 66, Perry Mason, Ironside, Peyton Place and Bonanza.

From 1959 to 1963, he latched onto the role that would make him famous — Frank Nitti in The Untouchables. A real-life competitor to Prohibition-era Chicago crime boss Al Capone, Nitti was pursued by the TV series' hero, special agent Eliot Ness, played by Robert Stack.

Abel Fernandez, a retired actor in Whittier, Calif., said he first got to know Gordon when he played a young American Indian and Gordon played his father in an episode of the TV western Bonanza. They later worked together on The Untouchables where Fernandez played one of Ness' "G-Men."

"He was a wonderful person," Fernandez said. "As an actor, fantastic. Just fun to watch work and fun to work with because he gave so much. I found that out when I did a (beer) commercial with him in New York. ... I have never met anyone who had anything bad to say about him or that they didn't like the way he worked."

Fernandez said he would occasionally call Gordon at home in Santa Fe to talk. He said when he and his children visited El Santuario de Chimayó two years ago, he tried to visit Gordon, but they couldn't arrange it.

Even though Gordon was typecast as a tough guy, Fernandez said, he made a joke out of it in comedies like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and Piranha.

Weckesser, who chairs the Performing Arts Department at Santa Fe University of Art & Design (formerly the College of Santa Fe), said even after Gordon retired to Santa Fe in the 1970s, he would be recognized in public as Nitti.

Weckesser said he cast Gordon in at least two plays after someone, possibly the late Greer Garson, pointed out that Gordon was living on Tano Road. Weckesser said Gordon would occasionally stop by the college to chat with students.

"He took his work seriously, but not too seriously," he said. "He just really had a terrific perspective on everything. I think he had a genuine interest in young people and was glad to be in that crowd here. His professionalism rubbed off gracefully onto their work. ... I can't say that about a lot of stars that I work with, but he was an ace."

During the 1970s, Gordon's professional work slowed down, but he continued to do cameo appearances in television series like Adam-12, The Doris Day Show, Banacek, The Fall Guy and Simon & Simon. A Wikipedia entry says Gordon's last known film role was in 1989 in Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain, in which he played himself.

In 2003, the posting says, his poor health prevented him from attending Stack's funeral. But Weckesser said when he lunched with Gordon only two years ago, "his mind was just super," that he talked about stories he had read in The New York Times and expressed concern about the policies of President George W. Bush.

Gordon's wife, Maria Gordon, was not available for comment. Santa Fe Funeral Options, which handled arrangements, reported that a private family memorial will be held in Big Sur, Calif.


01-31-2011, 09:04 PM
Poor Frank Nitti gets no love here. :(

01-31-2011, 09:10 PM
Man I loved whatching the Untouchables. And the Movie is one of my all time Favorites.

01-31-2011, 09:19 PM
Poor Frank Nitti gets no love here. :(

You are really old.

01-31-2011, 09:44 PM

Lots of other good shows on his resume as well.

01-31-2011, 09:53 PM
I used to watch that series with my parents. We had a great time. In those days if your city had more then 6 TV stations you were lucky. The NFL was great back then too. They never interupted a drive for commercials. The games were played outside in all kinds of bad weather. No girly men on those teams ! If a player's head was cracked open like a melon they would strap a belt around it to keep the brains from falling out and then pour iodine on it. Then send him back out to play until the game was over.

Actualy, I think modern players are just as tough. They play against competition that hits a lot harder and so they get hammered worse then the old guys did.

01-31-2011, 10:36 PM
Classic series, currently out on DVD. Used to watch the re-runs in the 70's over at my grandma's. Cool Show.

01-31-2011, 11:39 PM
You are really old.

I did watch them for the first time when they were 10 year old reruns though.

01-31-2011, 11:42 PM
Classic series, currently out on DVD.

Yes and yes. I have the seasons that are out already. part of my "special" collection.

That said the pilot had Elliot Ness involved in catching Al Capone. That, I understand, never happened.