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The Avalon Boys

The Avalon Boys



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Also Known As: Chill Wills Died: December 15, 1978
Born: July 18, 1903 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Seagonville, Texas, USA Profession: Cast ... actor vaudevillian


No classic Western fan could mistake character actor Chill Wills for anyone else. First there was the name, then his unforgettable foghorn bellow of a voice. Starting out as a leader of the singing cowboy group the Avalon Boys Quartet, he appeared with the quartet in a number of oaters in the 1930s, most memorably the Laurel and Hardy Western comedy "Way Out West". When he left the group, he focused solely on working in film, landing bit parts in the shadow of bigger stars like John Wayne in "Allegheny Uprising" and Gary Cooper in "The Westerner". His most notable part was voicing the sardonic Francis the mule in six movies from 1950 to 1955. When not playing the mule, Wills frequently worked with one of the true greats of classic Hollywood, John Wayne, and when Wayne finally saddled into the director's chair to make the 1960 epic "The Alamo", Wills was cast in a juicy role. When award season swung around, Wills mounted a notoriously gauche Oscar campaign after he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, much to the horror of Wayne and almost everyone else in Hollywood. He didn't win, though several comedians (including Groucho Marx) made sure to use Wills as their comedic punching bag. Some of his other memorable parts are in the star-studded "Giant"; the roaring Western comedy "McLintock!", with Wayne and Maureen O'Hara; and as a drunken, sweaty saloon keeper in Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid".

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