Wally Cox: Wikis


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Wally Cox
Born Wallace Maynard Cox
December 6, 1924
Detroit, Michigan
Died February 15, 1973 (aged 48)
Years active 1948 - 1973
Spouse(s) Marilyn Gennaro
(7 June 1954 - ?)
Milagros Tirado
(7 Sept 1963 - May 1966; divorced; two children)
Patricia Tiernan
(1967 - 15 Feb 1973; his death)

Wallace Maynard Cox (December 6, 1924 – February 15, 1973) was an American comedian and actor, particularly associated with the early years of television in the United States. He appeared in the U.S. TV series Mr. Peepers (1952-55), plus several other popular shows, and as a character actor in over 20 films. Wally Cox was the voice of the popular animated cartoon character Underdog. Although often cast as a meek milquetoast, he was actually strong and athletic. He married three times and was a close friend of Marlon Brando.


Early life and education

Cox was born in Detroit, Michigan. When he was 10, he moved with his divorced mother, mystery author Eleanor Atkinson, and a younger sister to Evanston, Illinois, where he became close friends with a neighborhood child, Marlon Brando. Cox's family moved frequently, eventually to Chicago, Illinois, then New York City, then back to Detroit, where he graduated from Denby High School.

During World War II Cox and his family returned to New York City, where he attended City College of New York. He next spent four months in the Army, and on his discharge attended New York University. He supported his invalid mother and sister by making and selling jewelry in a small shop and at parties, where he started doing comedy monologues. These would lead to regular performances at nightclubs such as the Village Vanguard, beginning in December 1948.

He became the roommate of Marlon Brando, who encouraged him to study acting with Stella Adler. Cox and Brando remained close friends for the rest of Cox's life, and Brando appeared unannounced at Cox's wake. Brando is also reported to have kept Cox's ashes in his bedroom and conversed with them nightly.[1]


In 1949, Cox appeared on the CBS network-radio show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, to the great amusement of host Godfrey. The first half of his act was a monologue in a slangy, almost-mumbled punk-kid characterization, telling listeners about his friend Dufo: "What a crazy guy." The gullible oaf Dufo would take any dares and fall for his gang's pranks time after time, and Cox would recount the awful consequences: "Sixteen stitches. What a crazy guy." Cox's decidedly different standup routine was infectious in its ridiculousness, and just as the studio audience had reached a peak of laughter, Cox suddenly switched gears, changed characters, and sang a high-pitched version of "The Drunkard Song" ("There Is a Tavern in the Town") punctuated by eccentric yodels! "Wallace Cox" earned a big hand that night, but lost by a narrow margin to The Chordettes. But he made enough of a hit to record his radio routine for an RCA Victor single. The "Dufo" routine ("What a Crazy Guy") was paired with "Tavern in the Town."

He appeared in Broadway musical reviews, night clubs, and early TV comedy-variety programs between 1949 and 1951, creating a huge impact with a starring role as a well-meaning but ineffective policeman on Philco Television Playhouse in 1951. Producer Fred Coe approached Cox about a starring role in a proposed live TV sitcom, Mr. Peepers, which he accepted. The show ran on NBC for three years. In 1959, he was featured in the guest-starring title role in "The Vincent Eaglewood Story" on NBC's western series, Wagon Train, with Read Morgan.

Other roles were as the hero of The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, based on a series of short stories of Paul Gallico, as a regular occupant of the upper left square on the television game show Hollywood Squares, and as the voice of the animated cartoon character Underdog. He also was a guest on the game show What's My Line and on the pilot of Mission: Impossible. Cox made several appearances on Here's Lucy, as well as The Beverly Hillbillies and evening talk shows.

He played character roles in more than 20 motion pictures and worked frequently in guest-star roles in TV drama, comedy, and variety series in the 1960s and early 1970s. Among these was a role as a down-on-his-luck prospector seeking a better life for his family in an episode of Alias Smith and Jones, a western comedy. His television and screen persona was that of a shy, timid but kind man who wore thick eyeglasses and spoke in a pedantic, high-pitched voice.

Cox published a number of books including Mr. Peepers, a novel created by adapting several scripts from the TV series; My Life as a Small Boy, an idealized depiction of his childhood; a parody and update of Horatio Alger in Ralph Makes Good, which was probably originally a screen treatment for an unmade film intended to star Cox; and a children's book, The Tenth Life of Osiris Oakes.

Personal life

During the 1960s and into the '70s, Cox became frustrated by his being typecast as a prim, polite bookworm (or birdwatcher, or accountant), and protested in vain to reporters and interviewers that he was nothing like Peepers. He was physically quite strong, hiked and rode a motorcycle, and was a master electrician. (Cox's Hollywood Squares colleague Peter Marshall recalled in his memoir that Cox installed and maintained all the wiring in his own home.) In Cox's later years, he sometimes displayed a sarcastic and peevish personality. On the June 14, 1976, installment of Tonight Show, actor Robert Blake spoke of how much he missed his good friend Cox, who was described as being adventuresome and athletic. A rare glimpse of Cox's athletic build can be seen in the Mission: Impossible pilot, when he works as a safe cracker in a tight, sleeveless t-shirt.

Cox married three times, to Marilyn Gennaro, Milagros Tirado, and Patricia Tiernan, and was survived by his third wife and two children.


On February 15, 1973, two months after his 48th birthday, Cox died of a heart attack, rumored, but not proven, to have been brought on by an overdose of sleeping pills. Eventually, his ashes were mingled with those of Brando and another friend and scattered in Death Valley, California.[1]


External links

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