Gosfield as Duane Doberman (right) with Phil Silvers as Ernie Bilko on the cover of Life Magazine (1956).
|Born||Maurice Lionel Gosfield
January 28, 1913
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 19, 1964
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Resting place||Long Island National Cemetery|
|Known for||The Phil Silvers Show
Maurice Gosfield (January 28, 1913 – October 19, 1964) was an American comic actor, most famous for his portrayal of Private Duane Doberman on the 1950s sitcom The Phil Silvers Show.
Maurice Lionel Gosfield was born in New York in 1913, but was raised in Philadelphia and later in Evanston, Illinois. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army as a Tec 4 in the 8th Armored Division.
He began acting with the Ralph Bellamy and Melvyn Douglas Players in Evanston, and joined the summer stock theatre circuit in 1930. In 1937, he made his Broadway debut as Manero in the play Siege. Other theatre credits from the 1930s include The Petrified Forest, Three Men on a Horse and Room Service. He also made several appearances on radio programs.
The Phil Silvers Show
From 1955 to 1959, Gosfield played Private Duane Doberman in The Phil Silvers Show (titled You'll Never Get Rich in its first season). Doberman was written as the most woebegone soldier. The actor originally hired for the part was Maurice Brenner, but Brenner was recast as Private Irving Fleischman. The show's creator Nat Hiken's biography details the casting for the role and the effect that Gosfield had on him, the producer and Phil Silvers when he appeared in front of them:
The dumpy, spectacularly ugly Maurice Gosfield ambled into an open casting call one day, brandishing an enormous list of credits. A handful of his bit parts on stage are easy enough to confirm; more difficult to pin down are his claims of two-thousand radio credits and one hundred TV appearances. Nonetheless, they were impressed with him. "None of the man's background, though, really mattered to Hiken and Silvers once they got a good look at him. Nat had already picked someone to play the most woebegone member of Bilko's platoon, but immediately he knew that here [Maurice Gosfield] was the man born for the part".
In 1959, Gosfield was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the show. That same year, he again played Private Doberman in the television show Keep in Step and made his final appearance as the character, the following year, when he guest starred on The Jack Benny Program. He next appeared in the made-for-television movie The Teenage Millionaire (1961).
Gosfield also provided the voice for Benny the Ball on the cartoon series Top Cat which was partially based on the Sergeant Bilko series. His last role was in the 1963 film The Thrill of It All, playing a truck driver. In 1964 he unsuccessfully tested for the role of Uncle Fester in the TV series The Addams Family.
Gosfield never married. He was 5'2" and weighed over 200 pounds and had once told TV writer Bert Resnik that he was "too ugly to get married". In 1957, he received the "TV's Bachelor of the Year" Award by the Bachelor and Bachelorettes Society of America.
Gosfield became ill and was sent to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. He suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes and what he thought was temporary blindness. The staff discharged him to a new place, the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital in Saranac Lake, New York. From here he was sent to see specialists at the Physicians' Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York, but later returned to the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital.
On 14 October 1964, Gosfield was in a play at New York Theatre, when he kept losing his balance and repeatedly falling asleep. He was diagnosed as having critical hypertension, and put on seven different tablets for this, which he was told to take for the rest of his life. On 17 October 1964, Gosfield suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to New York Hospital where he was reportedly not breathing and CPR was performed. He was admitted and his condition improved. As a result, Arnold Stang, who co-starred with Gosfield in Top Cat, told him that Hanna-Barbera were making a second series of the show, and that his role was waiting for him for when he recovered. However, two hours after Stang left, Gosfield suffered a second and fatal heart attack, and died instantly, on the night of 19 October 1964. Stang was phoned the next morning to be told the news, and he broke it to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who were both devastated by Gosfield's sudden death.
After Gosfield died in 1964, rather than make a new series, Hanna-Barbera decided not to make a new series of Top Cat, out of respect for Gosfield. William Hanna commented it as "a tragic loss". The Jetsons, a cartoon that aired in Top Cat's place, sent a message to Gosfield after their latest episode "The Coming of Astro" - "IN LOVING MEMORY OF MAURICE GOSFIELD 1913-1964".
DC Comics published eleven issues of a Private Doberman comic from 1957 to 1960.
Phil Silvers, in his 1973 autobiography, said of Gosfield that he had a pomposity and condescension off-screen and "thought of himself as Cary Grant playing a short, plump man," adding, "He began to have delusions. He did not realize that the situations in which he worked, plus the sharp lines provided by Nat and the other writers, made him funny." For his part, Gosfield crowed, "Without me, the Bilko show would be nothing." Marvin Kaplan, in an interview with Earl Kress on the DVD feature of Top Cat, said of his co-star: "Maurice Gosfield. He was one of a kind. He was a marvelous human being. I loved Maurice."
- Gosfield profile, radiogoldindex.com; accessed July 17, 2015.
- Everitt, David (2001). King of the Half Hour: Nat Hiken and the Golden Age of TV Comedy. Syracuse University Press. pp. 103–107. ISBN 0815606761.
- Silvers, Phil, with Robert Saffron. This Laugh is on Me: The Phil Silvers Story. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1973
- The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy, Nesteroff, Kliph, Grove Press, 2015, pg. 103