Dick Purcell

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Dick Purcell
King of the Zombies (1941) 1.jpg
Publicity photograph with Dick Purcell, Mantan Moreland, and Patricia Stacey in King of the Zombies (1941)
Born Richard Gerald Purcell, Jr.
(1908-08-06)August 6, 1908
Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.
Died April 10, 1944(1944-04-10) (aged 35)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart Attack
Nationality American
Education Fordham University
Occupation Actor
Spouse(s) Ethelind Terry (1942-1942) (divorced)

Richard Gerald "Dick" Purcell Jr. (August 6, 1908 – April 10, 1944) was an American actor best known for playing Marvel Comics' Captain America in the 1943 film serial, co-starring with Lorna Gray and Lionel Atwill.[1] Purcell also appeared in films such as Tough Kid (1938), 'Accidents Will Happen' (1938), Heroes in Blue (1939), Irish Luck (1939) and King of the Zombies (1941),

Early life[edit]

Purcell was born in Greenwich, Connecticut. An only child, he attended Catholic grade school and high school, before enrolling as a student at Fordham University in The Bronx in New York City.

Theatre and early film work[edit]

While in New York City, Dick Purcell began his acting career in theatre, appearing in at least three plays: Men in White, Sailor, Beware! and Paths of Glory. During his time acting in Paths of Glory, a talent scout spotted Purcell and this led to a small role in the film Ceiling Zero (1936). His next film was Man Hunt (1936), in which Purcell had a larger role as a newspaper reporter. Purcell appeared in eleven films in 1936 alone.

Captain America[edit]

Captain America (1944) is a Republic serial film loosely based on the comic book character Captain America. It was the last Republic serial made about a superhero. It also has the distinction of being the most expensive serial that Republic ever made.

The serial sees Captain America, really District Attorney Grant Gardner, trying to thwart the plans of The Scarab, really museum curator Dr. Cyrus Maldor—especially regarding his attempts to acquire the "Dynamic Vibrator" and "Electronic Firebolt", devices that could be used as super-weapons.

Dick Purcell won the role as Grant Gardner / Captain America, being cast as the hero despite supposedly appearing a bit overweight and average.[2]

The role that made Dick Purcell famous turned out to be his last, and in fact he died a few weeks after filming was completed, before the film serial was released to enormous success. According to film historian Raymond Stedman, the strain of filming Captain America had been too much for his heart,[3] and he collapsed in the locker room at a Los Angeles country club on 10 April 1944, shortly after playing a round of golf.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Dick Purcell at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "10. The Long-Underwear Boys "You've Met Me, Now Meet My Fist!"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 255, 258–259, 263. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9. 
  3. ^ Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "5. Shazam and Good-by". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5. 

External links[edit]