Billy De Wolfe

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Billy De Wolfe
Billy DeWolfe Good Morning World 1967.JPG
De Wolfe as the radio station manager in Good Morning, World, 1967.
BornWilliam Andrew Jones
(1907-02-18)February 18, 1907
Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMarch 5, 1974(1974-03-05) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, USA
Years active1943-1974
Partner(s)Never married
 
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Billy De Wolfe
Billy DeWolfe Good Morning World 1967.JPG
De Wolfe as the radio station manager in Good Morning, World, 1967.
BornWilliam Andrew Jones
(1907-02-18)February 18, 1907
Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMarch 5, 1974(1974-03-05) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, USA
Years active1943-1974
Partner(s)Never married

Billy De Wolfe (February 18, 1907 - March 5, 1974) was an American character actor. He was active in films from the mid-1940s until his death in 1974. He was a good friend of Doris Day from the time of their meeting during the filming of Tea for Two (1950) until his death. He was never married.

Life[edit]

Born William Andrew Jones in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts, DeWolfe was the son of a Welsh-born bookbinder who encouraged him to become a Baptist minister. Instead, "Billy" developed an interest in the theatre. He found work as an usher before becoming a dancer with the Jimmy O'Connor Band.[1] It was at this point that he changed his last name to De Wolfe, which was the last name of the manager of the Massachusetts theatre where he worked. He went on to tour Europe with a dance team, appearing in a London revue called "Revels in Rhythm"[1] and "danced before royalty on nine continents."[2] At some point during World War II, he served in the United States Navy until he was discharged for "medical" reasons in 1944.[2][3]

He signed with Paramount Pictures in 1943 and became a reliable comedian. His pencil-mustached and often pompous character contrasted humorously with the films' romantic leads. His best-known role of his Paramount tenure is probably the ham actor turned silent-movie villain in the 1947 fictionalized[4] Pearl White biography The Perils of Pauline. De Wolfe became known for his portrayal of fussy, petty men ("Never touch!," he would say imperiously whenever someone accosted him physically). A New York Times review of his 1948 film Isn't It Romantic? strongly criticized the way the other actors' material limited their performances, contrasting their performances with his: "But Mr. De Wolfe is nothing daunted. He rips up the place with great delight. The material is at his mercy. Likewise the scenery. And he chews it to bits."[5]

After his Paramount contract lapsed, DeWolfe returned to the stage. He appeared in the revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac in 1953 and 1954, and starred in the last edition of the Ziegfeld Follies, in 1957.

De Wolfe (second from left) with Scoey Mitchell (boxer), Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell from That Girl, 1969.

He appeared regularly in guest roles on television, including the first two episodes of NBC's The Imogene Coca Show. He reappeared as Mr. Jarvis on CBS's The Doris Day Show, and co-starred with Larry Storch in a short-lived TV sitcom, The Queen and I.[2] He often appeared on talk shows and in TV commercials, doing his "Mrs. Murgatroyd" drag routine. Wearing a hat and a shawl (but still sporting his mustache!), DeWolfe (as old maid "Phoebe Murgatroyd") would claim to be an expert on romance, and answered questions from the lovelorn.

Generations of TV viewers know Billy DeWolfe only by his voice: his is the voice of the inept magician Professor Hinkle in the 1969 Christmas special Frosty the Snowman. DeWolfe gave the role his usual fussy diction: "Mess-y, mess-y, mess-y! Bus-y, bus-y, bus-y!"

In 1967-68 (one season, 26 episodes), he co-starred with Joby Baker and Ronnie Schell in the TV sitcom Good Morning, World as Roland Hutton, the fussy manager at a radio station where David Lewis and Larry Clarke (Baker and Schell) are co-hosts.

In 1972, DeWolfe was scheduled to return to Broadway portraying Madame Lucy in the musical revival of Irene starring Debbie Reynolds, Monte Markham, Ruth Warrick, and Patsy Kelly. However, during the early stages of rehearsals, DeWolfe learned that he was ill with cancer and was replaced by George S. Irving.

Later that year, he recorded a voice role for the New York cast album of Free to Be... You and Me, starring Marlo Thomas, reprising the role in the animated ABC Television special filmed a year later. The TV show aired on March 11, 1974, six days after his death.

De Wolfe died from lung cancer on March 5, 1974 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he had been hospitalized since February 26.[1]

De Wolfe's closeted homosexuality has been alleged by John Gielgud,[6] author David Kaufman,[7] and The Advocate.[8]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ a b c UPI. "Vet hoofer, actor Billy De Wolfe dies," Pacific Stars & Stripes (March 8, 1974), page 3.
  2. ^ a b c "Billy De Wolfe dies in L.A.," Lowell Sun (March 6, 1974) p. 4.
  3. ^ "Billy De Wolf Leaves Navy; Wedgwood Room in Fall". The Billboard: 24. July 15, 1944. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: The Perils of Pauline," The New York Times, July 10, 1947: "Let's get this clearly on the record: Paramount's "The Perils of Pauline" ... is neither a reasonable facsimile of the ancient silent serial for which it is named, nor is it a rightful biography of the famous serial queen, Pearl White." Retrieved 2011-11-23.
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: Isn't It Romantic?", New York Times (October 7, 1948). Retrieved 2011-11-23.
  6. ^ Gielgud, John (2004). "The Seventies (1972)". Sir John Gielgud: A Life in Letters. p. 379. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ Kaufman, David (2010). Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door. p. 99. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  8. ^ Vilanch, Bruce (December 8, 1998). "America's favorite fruit". The Advocate. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 

External links[edit]