Walter Tetley, 1915-1975

Walter Tetley played the role of Leroy, Gildersleeve’s good-natured nephew, for the whole run of the radio program. Unlike the character of Marjorie, Leroy’s character hardly changes for years at a time. He seems to start the show at about the age of eleven or twelve, old enough to be somewhat independent, but young enough to talk about going out to play and to burst into tears when he gets into a fight with a bigger boy, or simply doesn’t get his own way.

Leroy is presented as the “All-American Boy”. He’s rough and tumble, needs to be reminded to wash his hands and put on clean clothes, gets bad report cards, fights with his friends and can’t seem to remember not to slam the door. But he’s true blue, loyal and honorable in his own way. He and his Uncle Mort are true pals, despite the fact that Uncle Mort is forever telling him to tuck in his shirt. Leroy loves and admires his uncle, but is always the first to deflate his ego with a well-placed “HA!!!” or “What a character!” And there is true affection in the way Uncle Mort calls him, “My boy”. Finally, in the early 1950s, Leroy is allowed to grow up a bit, developing an interest in driving, playing the drums and dreaming of a musical career with Rumson Bullard’s niece Babs.

Walter Tetley was a talented actor, whose naturally high voice led to his career as a child impersonator on radio. He played the wise-cracking Leroy Forrester for the whole run of the radio program, but his short stature and adult appearance made him unable to play the role in the Great Gildersleeve movies.

Tetley played tough kid parts on many popular comedy and drama anthology programs of the 1940’s and ’50’s, including “Command Performace

and “Suspense”. His other well-known regular radio roll was as Julius Abbruzio, the grocery boy with the Brooklyn accent on the Phil Harris and Alice Faye show.

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From 1959-1964, Tetley was heard as the voice of Sherman on the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segments shown on “Rocky and His Friends” and “The Bullwinkle Show.”

Walter Tetley was also a voice actor on Stan Freburg’s famed Stan Freberg Presents: The History of the United States of America, playing “Myron” in The Discovery of Electricity and the young second drummer in Yankee Doodle Go Home.

Links

  • — Wikipedia article
  • Walter Tetley — IMDB (Internet Movie Database) listing
  • The Walter Tetley Web Page: Tribute to a Long-Forgotten Entertainer — Brian Kistler’s tribute to Walter Tetley, with a special focus on his role as Sherman in the “Peabody’s Improbable History” cartoons. Brian’s efforts to find out more about Walter Tetley are an interesting story, and his account of Tetley’s later years is quite poignant.
  • Walter Tetley entry in the Internet Movie Database.

2 comments

  • Carol

    Walter Tetley had a very early TV show on one of Los Angeles’ local stations. I believe it was KTTV. I can’t remember the exact name of it, but it was a revue for kids, who sang and danced, and it took place in a barn setting.
    I was a young teen-ager then, and was on one of those shows with a bunch of other kids.
    I’d like to know the name of the show and where it all went.
    Thanks.
    Carol

  • Frank Fermier

    I remember Walter Tetley from earliest days. He was a regular on the Fred Allen “Salad Bowl Review” in the 1930s, and later of course in Great Gildersleeve radio show for which he is famous. Was shocked to read that there was even a possibility that his mother had had him castrated at an early age in order to not have him lose his voice, and and (her) income. Sounds possibly just “urban legend,” surely hope so, but then again…? In any event, it’s very sad he died alone and penniless. Would surely have sent him some money if it were possible. Poor fellow.

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