Sep 6, 2017

Robert Ellis: Gay Best Friend of the 1950s

This rather buffed young man looking rather unhappy at being hugged by a girl is Robert Ellis.  He was famous during the 1950s as Dexter Franklin on Meet Corliss Archer (1951-52), the first of many sitcoms about unconventional young women (others included A Date with Judy, Meet Millie, My Little Margie, and Too Young to Go Steady).  

Corliss Archer was first introduced in a series of short stories by F. Hugh Herbert (published in book form in 1944): a bright, sassy teenager who kept trying to involve her unwilling best buddy Dexter in her wild schemes. Dexter was not interested in girls, but he liked hanging out with Corliss because, in spite of his grumbling, he enjoyed the excitement and adventure.

The various versions of Corliss included a stage play (1943), two movies starring Shirley Temple (1945, 1949), a comic book series, and a long-running radio series starring Janet Waldo (1943-1956). Dexter was shy, quiet, and feminine, a gay-vague best friend, though sometimes the Fade Out Kiss requirement pushed him into a grudging admission of his romantic interest.  He was played variously by Sam Edwards, Dwayne Hickman, and Warren Berlinger, but Robert Ellis was best at providing a "Holy Cow!" unwillingness.

Robert Ellis had many guest spots on 1950s tv series, including The Loretta Young Show, The Bob Cummings Show, Jim Bowie, Wyatt Earp, and The Lone Ranger.   

As Ralph on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1956-58), he buddy-bonded with Ronnie Burns and tried his best not to get "snared" by a girl, in spite of his scripted girl-craziness.

In Gidget (1959), he played Hot Shot, a gay-vague surfer boy whom Gidget hires to make the Big Kahuna jealous.  He didn't go through with it, but he did manage to display some impressive muscles and a spectacular bulge.

Robert's last screen appearance was in The Jackie Gleason Special (1973).  He died in 1973, at the age of 40.

I just heard a story about Drake dating Robert Ellis in 1956, until Ricky Nelson stole him.  See Tales of West Hollywood.


  1. Robert Ellis, or "Bobby" as he was then billed, played radio's quintessential teen boy, Henry Aldrich on the radio for several years, and later played Henry on a TV version. Henry Aldrich managed to be girl crazy and gay-vague at the same time. He had a very intense romance with his best friend Homer. I've never seen the TV series, but I've heard many of the radio shows. Archie comics started as a direct rip-off of Henry Aldrich.

  2. There's a chapter in my book "We Boys Together" about the movie Henry Aldrich. He was one of the transitional characters from "women-hating" to "girl-crazy."


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