Dick Purcell

Richard Gerold Purcell Jr. (August 6, 1905 – April 10, 1944)[1] was an American actor best known for playing Marvel Comics' Captain America in the 1943 film serial, co-starring with Lorna Gray and Lionel Atwill.[2] Purcell also appeared in films such as Tough Kid (1938), Accidents Will Happen (1938), Heroes in Blue (1939), Irish Luck (1939), The Bank Dick (1940), and King of the Zombies (1941).

Dick Purcell
Dick Purcell in King of the Zombies (1941).jpg
Purcell in King of the Zombies (1941)
Richard Gerold Purcell Jr.

(1905-08-06)August 6, 1905
DiedApril 10, 1944(1944-04-10) (aged 38)
EducationFordham University
Years active1914–1944
EmployerWarner Brothers
Known forCaptain America
(m. 1942; div. 1942)

Early lifeEdit

Purcell was born in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1905 (not 1908, as many sources suggest). One of 5 children, he attended Catholic grade school and high school, before enrolling as a student at Fordham University in The Bronx in New York City.


While in New York City, Dick Purcell began his acting career in theatre, appearing in at least three plays: Men in White, Sailor, Beware! and Paths of Glory. During his time acting in Paths of Glory, a talent scout spotted Purcell and this led to a small role in the film Ceiling Zero (1936). His next film was Man Hunt (1936), in which Purcell had a larger role as a newspaper reporter. Purcell appeared in eleven films in 1936 alone.

Captain America serialEdit

Purcell was lucky enough to win the title role in the 1944 Republic serial film Captain America despite being a bit overweight.[3] The story, which was loosely based on the comic book character Captain America, had Captain America, really District Attorney Grant Gardner, trying to thwart the plans of The Scarab, (museum curator Dr. Cyrus Maldor) and his diabolical attempts to acquire a pair of super weapon devices, the "Dynamic Vibrator" and "Electronic Firebolt".

The serial, which would go on to be box office success, would be Republic's most expensive to make but also its last one about a superhero.

Personal lifeEdit

Purcell eloped to Las Vegas with the actress Ethelind Terry. The two married on March 3, 1942, only to divorce on August 26, 1942.[4][5]


Shortly after he completed the Captain America film serial, and just before its general release, Purcell collapsed in the locker room at a Hollywood country club in Los Angeles on 10 April 1944, shortly after playing a round of golf. His remains were interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City. According to film historian Raymond Stedman, it was the strain of filming Captain America that was too much for his heart.[6]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Selective Service Registration Cards, WWII Draft Registration Cards for California, 10/16/1940 - 03/31/1947, published by National Archives and Records Administration
  2. ^ Dick Purcell at IMDb
  3. ^ Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "10. The Long-Underwear Boys "You've Met Me, Now Meet My Fist!"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 255, 258–259, 263. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  4. ^ The Final Curtain: Marriages. The Billboard. March 21, 1942. p. 29. ISSN 0006-2510.
  5. ^ The Final Curtain. The Billboard. April 22, 1944. p. 32. ISSN 0006-2510.
  6. ^ Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "5. Shazam and Good-by". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5.

External linksEdit