Elisha Cook Jr.

Not to be confused with Elisha Cooke Jr..
Elisha Cook Jr.

Cook in 1944
Born Elisha Vanslyck Cook Jr.
(1903-12-26)December 26, 1903
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died May 18, 1995(1995-05-18) (aged 91)
Big Pine, California, U.S.
Cause of death Stroke
Residence Big Pine, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Education St. Alban's College
Alma mater Chicago Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation Actor
Years active 19261988
Home town Chicago, Illinois
Spouse(s) Mary Lou Cook (m. 1929–42)
Peggy McKenna (m. 1943–95)

Elisha Vanslyck Cook Jr. (December 26, 1903 – May 18, 1995) was an American character actor, probably best remembered as the "gunsel" Wilmer, who tries to intimidate Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) in The Maltese Falcon.[1] His acting career spanned more than 60 years, with roles in films such as The Big Sleep, Shane, The Killing, House on Haunted Hill, and Rosemary's Baby.

Early life

Cook was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Elisha Vanslyck Cook Sr., a pharmacist, and grew up in Chicago.


He started in vaudeville and stock by the age of fourteen. He was a traveling actor in the East Coast and the 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.[1] Cook served in the United States Army during World War II.

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

In film

In 1930, Cook settled in Hollywood. After several small and/or uncredited roles, he began a long period playing weaklings or sadistic losers and hoods. Cook's characters usually were killed off (strangled, poisoned or shot). 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 Hellzapoppin' (1941). In Universal's Phantom Lady (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).[2]

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

Cook may best be remembered for playing Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon (1941), Other notable roles included the doomed informant Harry Jones in The Big Sleep (1946), a henchman (Marty Waterman) of the murderous title character in Born to Kill (1947), the pugnacious ex-Confederate soldier 'Stonewall' Torrey who is gunned down by Jack Palance in Shane (1953), and George Peatty, the shady, cuckolded husband in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956). He appeared in William Castle's horror film House on Haunted Hill (1959) and in Rosemary's Baby (1968).[2]

In television

Cook appeared on American television. He played a private detective, Homer Garrity, in an episode of Adventures of Superman television series titled "Semi-Private Eye," airing for the first time on January 16, 1954. That same year, on April 12, he guest-starred on NBC's The Dennis Day Show. In 1960, he was cast in the episode, "The Hermit", of the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys, with Walter Brennan. He appeared as Jeremy Hake in the episode "The Bequest" of the ABC western series, The Rebel (1960), starring Nick Adams. He appeared as Gideon McCoy in an episode entitled "The Night of the Bars of Hell" of The Wild Wild West (1966). He appeared in the second episode of ABC's crime drama, The Fugitive.

Cook made two guest appearances on the CBS courtroom drama series Perry Mason. In 1958, he played Art Crowley in "The Case of the Pint-Sized Client," and in 1964, he played Reelin' Peter Rockwell in "The Case of the Reckless Rockhound". Cook played lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the Star Trek episode "Court Martial" (1967), Isaac Isaacson on the Batman television series, Weasel Craig in Salem's Lot, and later had a long-term recurring role as Honolulu crime lord "Ice Pick" on CBS's Magnum, P.I.. He also appeared in The Bionic Woman episode, "Once a Thief" (1977).[2]

Personal life

Cook was married twice, to Mary Lou Cook in 1929 (divorced in 1942) and Peggy McKenna Cook in 1943, a union which lasted until his death. He had no children.[1][2] He lived in Bishop, California, typically summering on Lake Sabrina in the Sierra Nevada. According to John Huston, who directed him in The Maltese Falcon:

[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.[3]


Cook died of a stroke on May 18, 1995 in Big Pine, California, aged 91. He was the last surviving member of the main cast of The Maltese Falcon.[1]

Selected filmography



  1. 1 2 3 4 Thomas Jr., Robert McG. (May 21, 1995). "Elisha Cook Jr., Villain in Many Films, Dies at 91.". New York Times. 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.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Elisha Cook Jr. at the Internet Movie Database
  3. Huston, John (1994). An Open Book. Da Capo Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-306-80573-8.
  4. "The Equalizer on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp". Internet Movie Database. April 16, 1957. Retrieved April 16, 2014.

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/23/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.