Family & Companions
Powerfully built and perpetually wearing a baleful, cringe-inducing stare, character actor Leo Gordon loomed tall as the villain in dozens of Westerns and melodramatic crime films during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. He once served time in San Quentin State Prison but it's his flinty voice and bulldog-like under bite that have caused some people to proclaim him the "scariest man they ever met." However, many of his former co-stars have regarded him as a professional and decidedly courteous performer. Rather funnily, he first garnered attention for his role in the exploitative prison shocker "Riot in Cell Block 11" ('54), a movie that was shot on location at San Quentin--he got to see all his old prison guards while also getting his big break. Though he's appeared in over 100 movie and TV Westerns, including the kicky oater comedy "My Name is Nobody" in 1973, he is probably best known for his late-'50s role as the large-and-in-charge Big Mike McComb on the rollicking, gambling-centered adventure series "Maverick." In 1963, he famously (if briefly) went toe to toe with the legendary John Wayne in the madcap free-for-all romp "McLintock!" and ended up falling face-first down a mudslide. Gordon occasionally played a good guy and wrote scripts himself for over 20 big-screen and small-screen Westerns. Shortly before his retirement in the mid-'90s, he reprised his signature role in the big-budget cinematic adaptation of "Maverick," which co-starred Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. He died in his sleep at age 78.