Photographer Unknown, “Billy Halop”, Studio Shoot for “Dead End”, 1937, Director William Wyler, Cinematographer Gregg Toland
Born in Jamaica, Queens, New York City in February of 1920, William (Billy) Halop was an American actor who, while in his mid-teens, achieved fame in the 1930s as the leader of the Dead End Kids in the Broadway stage and movie versions of Sidney Kingsley’s drama “Dead End”.
William Halop was one of three children born to Benjamin Cohen Halop and Lucille Elizabeth Halop, a theatrical dancer. In 1933 at the age of thirteen, he was given the lead role as Bobby Benson in the popular radio show “The H-Bar-O Rangers”, a juvenile Western adventure radio program that was broadcasted on the CBS network. For three years beginning in 1934, Halop starred as Dick Kent, the son of Fred and Lucy Kent, in the radio series “Home Sweet Home”.
Halop was already a successful radio actor when he began studying at New York City’s Professional Children’s School, a preparatory school for working and aspiring child actors and dancers. He and five other boys were chosen to appear as the poverty-stricken juvenile delinquents in Kingsley’s 1935 play “Dead End”. Halop played the role of Tommy, a tough street-wise fugitive from a reform school, who was the brother of the play’s heroine Drina Gordon. The six boys were the favorite actors in the play; the Broadway audience was both shocked and amused by the vile gutter language spoken in the play.
With the success of the production, William Halop and his fellow actors were signed to two-year film contracts with Hollywood producer Samual Goldwyn for United Artists and became known as the Dead End Kids. In his first film appearance, Halop appeared as the character Tommy in the 1937 film version of the “Dead End” play; he would play this character role in several following films. Due to the boys’ wild behavior and their destruction of studio property that was committed during filming, their contracts were sold to Warner Brothers Studio.
Halop’s first film role with Warner Brothers was the character of Frankie Warren in the 1937 “Crime School”, a reform school film that starred Humphrey Bogart and the Dead End Kids. In 1938, he had a role in the short comedy-musical color film entitled “Swingtime in the Movies”, another film which featured Bogart and the Dead End Kids. As the Kids grew older, Halop and the others appeared in six more films for Warner Brothers which included the 1938 “Angels with Dirty Faces”, the 1939 “They Made Me a Criminal” and the 1939 “On Dress Parade”.
By the end of the 1930s, William Halop had acted with such stars as James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, John Garfield and Ronald Reagan. In 1940, he appeared as the bully Harry Flashman, speaking with a British accent, in Robert Stevenson’s 1940 coming-of-age drama film for RKO Radio Pictures, “Tom Brown’s School Days”. His co-stars in this film were stage and film actor Cedric Hardwicke and Freddie Bartholomew, who had played the title role in the 1935 “David Copperfield”. Halop also appeared in the role of Billy ‘Ace” Holden in the 1940 Universal twelve-chapter serial “Junior G-Men of the Air”, in which the Dead End Kids prevented the sabotage of the American defense program.
After serving in the United States Army Signal Corps during World War II, William Halop found that he had grown too old to resume the characters he had played during his fame. The last role he played depicted as a juvenile character was Tony Albertini in the 1946 “Gas House Kids”; he was twenty-six at the time. Halop continued to act in film with supporting and small uncredited roles until 1967.
Starting in 1951, Halop began a twenty-three year career of acting in various television series, where he would appear in an occasional episode. He made appearances in such shows as “Racket Squad”, “The Cisco Kid”, “The Jack Benny Program”, “Playhouse 90”, “Perry Mason”, “The Fugitive”, The Andy Griffith Show”, and “The Thin Man”. In 1970, Halop’s career had a resurgence with the character of Bert Munson, the cab driver and close friend of Archie Bunker on the series “All in the Family”. He appeared in ten episodes of the popular series including the 1972 “Sammy’s Visit”, which starred Sammy Davis, Jr.
According to interviews given in the latter part of his life, William Halop was married four times, all of which ended in divorce. The nursing skills he acquired in his third marriage to Suzanne Rice, who had multiple sclerosis, led him after their divorce to steady work as a registered nurse in Santa Monica, California. Halop’s marriage to his fourth wife, Barbara, was quickly ended after she allegedly attacked him. He later moved back in with his second wife, Barbara, but they chose not to remarry.
William Halop’s career included roles in thirty-eight films and appearances in forty-two television series. Following two heart attacks, he underwent open-heart surgery in the fall of 1971. Halop died in Hollywood of a heart attack in November of 1976, at the age of fifty-six. William Halop is interred in the Garden of Sher Mot at Los Angeles’s Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery. At the time of his death, he was working on his autobiography, titled “There’s No Dead End”.
Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Billy Halop”, 1942, Publicity Shot for “Junior G-Men of the Air”, Directors Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor, Cinematographer William A. Sickner
Second, Third and Fourth Insert Images: Cinematographer Ernest Haller, Billy Halop in “Blues in the Night”, 1941, Film Gifs, Director Anatole Litvak, Warner Brothers Pictures
Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Billy Halop and Humphrey Bogart”, Studio Shoot fro “Crime School”, 1938, Director Lewis Seiler, Cinematographer Arthur Todd, Warner Brothers Pictures