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Cliff Gorman Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (8)

Overview (3)

Born in Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (leukemia)
Birth NameJoel Joshua Goldberg

Mini Bio (1)

Queens-born actor Cliff Gorman, who peaked on stage and in film in the 1970s, was of solid New York stock and well-represented his city throughout his acting career. Short statured, with a set chin, eyes slightly askew, and dark, ethnic looks, his working-class characters reeked of New York realism. Career-wise, it gave Gorman an unsympathetic veneer, taking keen advantage of it especially on the award-winning stage and in a handful of strong film/TV roles. His versatility was obvious -- he was often cast to strut about as a smug and smarmy ladies' man; or berate club patrons as a lewd, below-the-belt entertainer; or portray corrupt cops known for playing by their own rules. Gorman blended easily into the seamy atmosphere of New York's underbelly anywhere and anytime. Known for adding an exciting, dangerous quality to the characters he imbued, it made him fascinating, at the very least, even when the storyline itself wasn't. Even his unflinching anti-heroes were hard to take at times due to their open callousness.

Born on October 13, 1936, Gorman attended both the University of Mexico and UCLA during the mid-1950s, but received his B.S. in education in 1959 from New York University. The acting bug caught up with him early into the next decade. The first production that merited any critical attention was the 1965 off-Broadway drama "Hogan's Goat" with the also up-and-coming Faye Dunaway. A one-time member of Jerome Robbins American Theatre Laboratory, Gorman really turned heads in a decidedly atypical role -- that of the arrogant, sharp-tongued, super flamboyant Emory in the 1968 gay counterculture dramedy "The Boys in the Band". Along with this attention came a well-deserved Obie Award. The ensemble play, which was the first to focus exclusively on gay characters, maintained a superlative mixture of pathos, bathos, caustic humor and witty double entendres. The show also was ground-breaking in that it presented homosexuals as realistic, three-dimensional characters and not merely sideshow objects of humor and/or ridicule. Author Mart Crowley smartly transitioned his play to film and kept his talented theater ensemble intact, some having never appeared in films before. In turn, director William Friedkin's The Boys in the Band (1970) became a milestone in movie-making, an instant cult classic that is today viewed as the fore-daddy of gay cinema.

In 1972, Gorman became the toast of Broadway when he dissolved into the depressing world of comedy. His stark, searing, no-holds-barred portrayal of manic blue comedian Lenny Bruce, whose life and career disintegrated into one huge heroin habit, brought the house down and earned him both the Tony and Drama Desk awards. Although having made his film debut in Justine (1969) and despite receiving top billing in the well-received comedy crime yarn Cops and Robbers (1973), Gorman was not a name star by the time "Lenny" was made into a film. As such, superstar Dustin Hoffman was given the incredible opportunity of playing Lenny (1974). Unarguably, the Oscar-nominated Hoffman was amazing in his resurrection of the irreverent, ill-fated entertainer, but it could have been THE film role for Gorman -- one that might have changed the momentum and destiny of his film career forever. A few years later Bob Fosse, in tribute, would cast Gorman in a very Lenny Bruce-like cameo role in his autobiographical film All That Jazz (1979).

Gorman ventured on but at a much more sporadic pace. He did make TV infamy with the mini-movie Class of '63 (1973), in which he played the insanely obsessive husband of Joan Hackett who terrorizes his wife's former beau (James Brolin) at a school reunion. He backed this up as the zealous Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels alongside Anthony Hopkins' Adolph Hitler in the acclaimed mini-movie The Bunker (1981). On a more compassionate note, Gorman came to the aid of ostracized West Point cadet Richard Thomas in The Silence (1975) as a writer and publisher who helps abolish an inhumane academy tradition. Gorman also displayed a proper toughness and edge-of-the-seat intensity in various good guy/bad guy crimers, notably several "Police Story" episodes and a spate of mini-movies co-starring Richard Crenna.

The bad guy was in top form when Gorman led a Palestinian terrorist group in Otto Preminger's rather abysmal Rosebud (1975); played a slick and sleazy cad who mistreats poor, vulnerable Jill Clayburgh in the popular feminist weeper An Unmarried Woman (1978); and then portrayed another psycho nemesis for James Brolin in the lurid thriller Night of the Juggler (1980).

Gorman made a noticeable return to Broadway with a Tony nomination for his role in Neil Simon's comedy "Chapter Two" in 1977, then prodded his more amusing instincts a decade later in both "Doubletake" (replacing Ron Leibman in 1985) and "Social Security" (replacing Ron Silver in 1986). Into the 1990s Gorman was seen here and there on film, including a supporting mobster part in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) and as the estranged father of John Leguizamo in King of the Jungle (2000).

Diagnosed with leukemia, Gorman died at age 65 on September 5, 2002, in his beloved New York City and was survived by his long-time wife of almost 40 years, Gayle. His last film Kill the Poor (2003), made in 2002, was released posthumously.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Gayle Gorman (31 May 1963 - 5 September 2002) ( his death)

Trivia (8)

Won the Obie award in 1968 for "The Boys in the Band".
Was an original member of the Jerome Robbins American Theater Lab.
Won Broadway's 1972 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for playing the title character of Lenny Bruce in "Lenny." He also received a Tony nomination in 1978 as Best Actor (Featured Role - Play) for "Chapter Two."
Primarily a stage performer, he was best known on TV and film for his smarmy, unsympathetic portrayals of cads and cutthroats.
Both he and Lenny Bruce were born on October 13th.
On the DVD commentary of The Boys in the Band (1970), one of the interviewed mentioned that Gorman and his wife took care of Robert La Tourneaux when he was dying of AIDS. Gorman and La Tourneaux appeared both in the original play and film version of The Boys in the Band.
Of all the main actors from "The Boys in the Band" (1970), he, Laurence Luckinbill, and Peter White were the only three who were not attracted to the same sex in real life.
In All That Jazz (1979) he plays a stand-up comedian parody of Lenny Bruce, a role he actually played on Broadway.

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