Elisha Cook, Jr.

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Elisha Cook, Jr.

Cook, Jr. in 1944
BornElisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr.
(1903-12-26)December 26, 1903
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedMay 18, 1995(1995-05-18) (aged 91)
Big Pine, California, U.S.
Cause of deathStroke
ResidenceBig Pine, California
NationalityAmerican
Other namesElisa Cook
Elisha Cook
EducationSt. Alban's College
Alma materChicago Academy of Dramatic Arts
OccupationActor
Years active1930–1988
Home townChicago, Illinois
Spouse

Mary Lou Cook (m. 1929–1942) «start: (1929)–end+1: (1943)»"Marriage: Mary Lou Cook to Elisha Cook, Jr." Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_Cook,_Jr.)

Peggy McKenna (m. 1943–1995) «start: (1943)–end+1: (1996)»"Marriage: Peggy McKenna to Elisha Cook, Jr." Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_Cook,_Jr.)
 
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Elisha Cook, Jr.

Cook, Jr. in 1944
BornElisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr.
(1903-12-26)December 26, 1903
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedMay 18, 1995(1995-05-18) (aged 91)
Big Pine, California, U.S.
Cause of deathStroke
ResidenceBig Pine, California
NationalityAmerican
Other namesElisa Cook
Elisha Cook
EducationSt. Alban's College
Alma materChicago Academy of Dramatic Arts
OccupationActor
Years active1930–1988
Home townChicago, Illinois
Spouse

Mary Lou Cook (m. 1929–1942) «start: (1929)–end+1: (1943)»"Marriage: Mary Lou Cook to Elisha Cook, Jr." Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_Cook,_Jr.)

Peggy McKenna (m. 1943–1995) «start: (1943)–end+1: (1996)»"Marriage: Peggy McKenna to Elisha Cook, Jr." Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_Cook,_Jr.)

Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr.[1] (December 26, 1903[1][2] – May 18, 1995) was an American character actor who made a career out of playing cowardly villains and weedy neurotics in dozens of films. He was perhaps most noted for his portrayal of the "gunsel" Wilmer, who tries to intimidate Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.[3]

Contents

Career

Cook was born in San Francisco, the son of Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Sr., a pharmacist.[4] He grew up in Chicago. He started out in vaudeville and stock by the age of 14. He was a traveling actor in the East and Midwest before arriving in New York City, where Eugene O'Neill cast him in his play Ah, Wilderness!, which ran on Broadway for two years.[3]

Cook meeting a typical sticky end at the hands of Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill (1947).

In 1936, Cook settled in Hollywood and, after playing a series of college-aged parts, began a long stint playing weaklings or sadistic losers and hoods. His acting career spanned more than 60 years. Cook's characters usually ended up being killed off (strangled, poisoned or shot); he was arguably Hollywood's most notable fall guy for many years. He made a rare appearance in slapstick comedy in the cameo role of The Screenwriter in 1941's Hellzapoppin'. In Universal's Phantom Lady of 1944, he portrays a slimy, intoxicated nightclub-orchestra drummer to memorable effect. He had a substantial uncredited role as Bobo in I, the Jury (1953).

Cook, Jr. in the trailer for The Maltese Falcon, (1941)

Other notable roles included Wilmer the "gunsel" in The Maltese Falcon (1941), a henchman (Marty Waterman) of the murderous title character in Born to Kill, the doomed informant Harry Jones in The Big Sleep (1946), the pugnacious ex-Confederate soldier "Stonewall" Torrey in Shane (1953), and George Peatty, the crooked hen-pecked husband to Marie Windsor, in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956). At the other end of the cinematic spectrum, he appeared in William Castle's horror film House on Haunted Hill, released in 1959, and Roman Polanski's adaptation of Rosemary's Baby (1968).

Cook did work, too, on American television. He played a private detective in a 1953 episode of Adventures of Superman TV series titled Semi-Private Eye. That same season, he guest starred on NBC's The Dennis Day Show. He appeared in the second episode of The Fugitive (TV series). He played lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the Star Trek episode "Court Martial", Isaac Isaacson on the Batman TV series, Weasel Craig in Salem's Lot, and later had a long-term recurring role as Honolulu crime lord "Ice Pick" on Magnum, P.I..

He also appeared in The Bionic Woman episode "Once a Thief" in 1977 opposite Lindsay Wagner.

Personal life

Cook married twice. His first marriage was to Mary Lou Cook in 1929, but they divorced in 1942. His second marriage, which lasted until his death, was to Peggy McKenna Cook in 1943. He had no children, although he spent time raising a niece. He lived in Bishop, California, typically summering on Lake Sabrina in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

According to John Huston, who directed him in The Maltese Falcon:[5]

"[Cook] lived alone up in the High Sierra, tied flies and caught golden trout between films. When he was wanted in Hollywood, they sent word up to his mountain cabin by courier. He would come down, do a picture, and then withdraw again to his retreat."

Death

Cook died of a stroke on May 18, 1995 in Big Pine, California.[3]Cook's ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.

Selected filmography

Television

References

  1. ^ a b California Death Index
  2. ^ Social Security Death Index
  3. ^ a b c Thomas Jr., Robert McG. (May 21, 1995). "Elisha Cook Jr., Villain in Many Films, Dies at 91.". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE5D91531F932A15756C0A963958260. "Elisha Cook Jr., whose intense, bug-eyed portrayal of Wilmer, the psychotic, baby-faced killer in "The Maltese Falcon," made him a cult figure to a generation of moviegoers, died on Thursday at a nursing home in Big Pine, California. He was 91. He was the last surviving cast member of John Huston's 1941 film noir classic, whose company included Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Mary Astor." 
  4. ^ 1900 US Census
  5. ^ Huston, John (1994). An Open Book. Da Capo Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-306-80573-8. http://books.google.com/?id=pqbsPJlscyYC&pg=PA79&dq=%22Elisha%20Cook,%20Jr.%22. 

Television: He played in Gunsmoke.

External links