Moving West to Moving Pictures – MGM and more…
Girl Crazy (1943)
After Broadway, when Best Foot Forward was picked up by Hollywood, Gil traveled West! Sadly, he was replaced by another young actor, Tommy Dix for his role. Still, he got a contract with MGM and got to play a young (uncredited) cadet in the movie starring Lucille Ball. It was to be part of a short MGM Contract that brought him other notoriety…
This same 1943 year, was followed up by getting to play Mickey Rooney’s best friend, Bud Livermore, in the movie Girl Crazy. In this movie he got to sing a line or two in duet with Judy Garland and even dance a few steps with her to the song Embraceable You. It was the last of four Mickey/Judy “backyard musicals” directed by Busby Berkeley
Gil actually was in line to play the boy next door in the next Garland film, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” However, he was called to the Army Air Forces, during World War II. Gil’s time in Hollywood was suspended during World War II when he served as a bombardier with the Army Air Corps, but when he returned to civilian life Gil immediately flew back to Hollywood.
Embraceable you from Girl crazy – Gil sings and dances with Judy.
After WWII, while Gil was appearing in supporting roles in film in the late 40’s he began working as a radio actor in such shows as Lux Radio Theater, The Great Gildersleeve, and My Little Margie. He worked opposite Judy Garland in the 1950 radio version of The Wizard of Oz, and opposite Shirley Temple in an audio adaptation of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.
Back to The Movies
Gil went on to act in movies such as Kilroy Was Here (1947), Dangerous Years (1947), Half Past Midnight (1948), Tucson (1949), Army Bound (1952), Battle Zone (1952) and two movies with then bit player Marilyn Monroe! In Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) he played Beanie, and a sign of things to come… a Track Announcer. Gil co-starred in Hot Rod (1950) and played Mouse, a Black Rebels biker alongside Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1954), the first and best biker movie. Gil upgraded his image as one of the Bowery Boys in Hold That Line and Here Come the Marines (1952) both directed by William Beaudine. In Monkey Business (1952) directed by Howard Hawks, he worked with Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, and Charles Coburn.
The Dangerous Years (1947)
1947 was a busy year. He played in The Dangerous Years, a movie with Ann E. Todd, Scotty Beckett, Harry Harvey Jr., Dickie Moore in the role of Tammy McDonald. And also was in Kilroy Was Here, playing the character Jimmy White in a movie starring Jackie Cooper and Jackie Coogan.
Half Past Midnight playing the role of Chick Patrick
In the movie Mr. Belvedere Goes to College, Gil went on (uncredited) as “Beanie the track announcer,” but it certainly was a taste of things to come… He also played the character Jerry Twillin the movie Tuscon and made a guest appearance on the TV show, Your Show Time “Why Thomas Was Discharged”
Hot Rod (1950)
Got back into the movies in the cult classic “Hot Rod.” Playing Clarence Swifty Johnson
Stars Over Hollywood – more TV in the Episode My Nephew Norwell
Hold That Line and Here Come the Marines as “Junior” – two films with Leo Gorcey and the Bowery Boys
Monkey Business – he plays a “Yale Man” in a movie starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers.
Plays Burt in Army Bound and a Marine Runner in the movie Battle Zone.
And a few more TV spots on Chevron Theater and Hollywood Opening Night and three episodes of Dragnet!!! The Big Thief, The Big Rose, The Big Trio.
Watch one of the DRAGNET episodes here:
A Major Career Highlight
Stalag 17 (1953)
Then along came Stalag 17 (1953) where Gil not only played Academy Award Winner William Holden sidekick Clarence ‘Cookie’ Cook, but in true Stratton radio voice style he provided the pivotal narration for the film. 1953 was the year that really put Gil on the map of many fans. He narrated the entire movie.
The Wild One (1953)
This was followed this same big year by getting the role of “Mouse” in the Wild One playing opposite Marlon Brando in the role of his career. He later said he regretted that his agent failed to get him any screen credit, although he had several scenes and actual lines with Marlon Brando.
In this movie, the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club comes ripping down the highway, lead by Brando, with Gil right by his side. Gil talked about shooting these scenes in the West San Fernando Valley where there was nothing there except Pepper Trees. He also talked about how they would should “Day for Night” i.e. shoot nighttimes scenes in the middle of the day and simply adjust the aperature on the cameras to make them look more ‘night-like for the screen.
Controversy surrounded this film with censors. It was also said that Johnson Motors (importers of Triumph Motorcycles USA) objected to the use of the 6t Triumph in the film. Marlon Brando’s Johnny Strabler leather jacket clab character has become an icon of rebellion. The film inspired James Dean and Elvis Presley. Co-Stars: Mary Murphy, Robert Keith, Lee Marvin
Gil in the wild one.
In 1954, he got a few more roles including Coach Ralph Shipley on the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and a stint showing Entertainment on Wheels for the Shower of Stars! Entertainment On Wheels also featured Betty Grable, Harry James, Danny Thomas, and Groucho Marx!
That’s My Boy (1954-1955)
In the 1954 television season, Stratton was a regular on the This Eisenhower-era CBS situation comedy That’s My Boy. This live television sitcom starring Eddie Mayehoff and Gil was based on the 1951 Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film of the same name from 1951. He played the Jerry Lewis role of Junior Jackson. It was ironic that Gil, a sports fan and future L.A. Rams announcer, played the bookish un-athletic son of a retired football star Jarring Jack Jackson (played by Eddie Mayhoff). Gil got a 2 page article in Life Magazine for his work on this show in the August 23, 1954 issue.
Enter Sports Career
That same year of 1952 he began a 16 year run as sportscaster on KNXT Los Angeles, and over time also covered sports for KNX radio and KTTV. And somehow during all of this business, Gil was also umpiring for the Pacific Coast League during this time (since 1952). Considering he was shooting That’s My Boy at CBS Television City and Gilmore Field Stadium was just next door – it was not too far of a commute. It was during these umpire days that Gil Stratton developed the unique by line of I or we… “call’em as we see’em”
Umpiring a baseball game. August 01, 1954
Gil had a couple more roles in the Damon Runyon TV Theater and as an uncredited Chauffer in the Girl Rush. Led to a more meaty role in
Bundle of Joy (1956)
One of Gil’s later films before transitioning to the world of sports was Bundle of Joy (1956) for RKO co-starring with a newly married Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, along with classic character man Adolphe Menjou. He got a big break in playing Mike Clancy opposite megastar Debbie Reynolds in the movie Bundle of Joy. He used to say that you would never know that Debbie was 6 months pregnant with Carrie Fisher while filming this movie because they had her so trussed up and corseted to fit those 1950’s dresses. The movie was a Technicolor musical remake of the comedy film Bachelor Mother (1939), which starred Ginger Rogers. An unmarried salesgirl at a department store finds and takes care of an abandoned baby. “Much confusion results when her co-workers assume the child is hers and that the father is the son of the store owner.” (wikipedia)
This same year, he also played a part on The Ernie Ford Show (1956).
Add early TV – CLIMAX! Season 4, Episode 5 Directed by Paul Nickell and Drew Handley. Written by Jerry Davis Broadcast live on November 7, 1957: A Vegas singer who sets up outlandish publicity stunts claims to be able to recognize a maniac murderer but no one will believe him, and he becomes next on the killer’s hit list. The known Actors: Johnny Desmond, Marisa Pavan, James Dunn, Gil Stratton (playing record producer Lou Palmer), Jackie Coogan, Denver Pyle, Tom Duggan, Howard Ledig, William Lundigan, and Art Gillmore was the commercial spokesman -announcer. https://free-classic-tv-shows.com/Drama/Climax!/1957-11-07-s4-ep5-Keep-Me-In-Mind/index.php
He played Gabby in the Red Skelton Hour in 1959 and in a TV Movie “Waldo” in 1960.
But Gil’s acting career started to wind down in the late 1950s because he was about to embark on the next major portion of his life…