Erford Gage was one of the more promising young stage actors in the Northeast of the late '30s and one of the best young players signed by RKO during the early '40s.
Born in Massachusetts in 1912, he entered performing as a drummer and part-time singer with the Brookfield, MA, Summer Dance band in the late '20s, before he drifted into acting, starting out in juvenile roles in the early '30s. From 1932 onward, he was employed almost continuously on stage throughout the eastern United States. He kept busy through the Great Depression and eventually joined the Federal Theatre Project of the government's Works Progress Administration. Among the productions in which he appeared through the Federal Theatre in the late '30s were: Prologue to Glory, in which he portrayed a young Abraham Lincoln; Shakespeare's Coriolanus; George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion; and Clyde Fitch's comedy of late 19th century New York, Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, in which Gage played Captain Jinks (the play included in its cast future star John Randolph). He also directed in summer stock at Kennebunkport, ME, and in 1940 had his own stock comedy, which did a season at the Copley Theatre in Boston. Gage's last major stage work was in Maurice Evans' Broadway production of Macbeth, after which he went out to Hollywood and signed a contract with RKO.
Gage appeared in supporting roles in various movies spread among different genres, beginning with the wartime thriller Seven Miles From Alcatraz and the topical drama Hitler's Children, both directed by Edward Dmytryk. Sandwiched in between these and such enduring box-office hits as H.C. Potter's Mr. Lucky (starring Cary Grant) were a number of very successful B-pictures, among them the comedy Adventures of a Rookie, in which Gage played against type, as a tough sergeant (which he reprised in a sequel Rookies In Burma); the exciting mystery thriller The Falcon Strikes Back; and the topical morale-boosting drama Gangway for Tomorrow. Gage's best single film role, however, was as Jason Hoag in producer Val Lewton's psychological suspense thriller The Seventh Victim. Portraying a poet who has lost his muse and seems content to live quietly, unproductively, in Greenwich Village, Gage imparts a subtle but profound sense of hurt to the character's every nuance, which rises nearer to the surface in the scene where he confronts Tom Conway's glib psychiatrist at a party (they joust verbally while a Brahms piano piece plays softly in the background) and when he shows young ingenue Kim Hunter his apartment, where he would like to work, hoping he has found a companion but instead finding himself rejected. Gage worked in another Falcon movie and played an uncredited role in Days of Glory, Jacques Tourneur's patriotic tribute to the Soviet struggle against the Nazis, before closing out his career in Curse of the Cat People, another Val Lewton production. He left RKO to join the armed forces in 1943. Gage served in the Pacific and his promising career was cut short when he was killed in fighting on Iwo Jima in March 1945, one of more than 8000 Americans who lost their lives in the fighting.