Maurice Gosfield

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Maurice Gosfield
Gosfield as Duane Doberman (right) with Phil Silvers as Ernie Bilko
Gosfield as Duane Doberman (right) with Phil Silvers as Ernie Bilko on the cover of Life Magazine (1956).
Maurice Lionel Gosfield

(1913-01-28)January 28, 1913
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedOctober 19, 1964(1964-10-19) (aged 51)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeLong Island National Cemetery
Years active1934–1964
Known forThe Phil Silvers Show
Top Cat

Maurice Lionel Gosfield (January 28, 1913 – October 19, 1964) was an American stage, film, radio and television actor, best remembered for his portrayal of Private Duane Doberman on the 1950s sitcom The Phil Silvers Show (1955–59) and voicing Benny the Ball in Top Cat (1961–62).

Early life[edit]

Gosfield was born in New York City and was raised in Philadelphia and, later, in Evanston, Illinois. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army as a Technician fourth grade (T/4) in the 8th Armored Division.[1]


He began to act 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.[1]

The Phil Silvers Show[edit]

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".[2]

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.

Later years[edit]

In 1961, Gosfield appeared in the film The Teenage Millionaire (1961).[3] 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.

Personal life[edit]

Gosfield never married and had no children. At 5'2" and weighing over 200 pounds, Gosfield 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.[citation needed]


On October 19, 1964, Gosfield died at the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital in Saranac Lake, New York at the age of 51. He had been in hospital since the previous summer suffering from a series of ailments including diabetes and heart trouble and other complications.[4] He is buried in Long Island National Cemetery.[5]


DC Comics published eleven issues of a Private Doberman comic from 1957 to 1960.[1]

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,"[6] Silvers continued: "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."[7]




  1. ^ a b c Gosfield profile,; accessed July 17, 2015.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Blum, Daniel (1962). Blum, Daniel (ed.). Screen World 1962, Volume 13. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. p. 72. ISBN 0-819-60303-1.
  4. ^ "Death Claims Life of Comic Maurice Gosfield". Rome News Tribune. October 20, 1964.
  5. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3 ed.). McFarland. p. 289. ISBN 1-476-62599-9.
  6. ^ Silvers, Phil, with Robert Saffron. This Laugh is on Me: The Phil Silvers Story. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1973
  7. ^ The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy, Nesteroff, Kliph, Grove Press, 2015, pg. 103

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