skip navigation
Wally Cox

Wally Cox

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (1)

Recent DVDs

 
 

The Bedford Incident DVD This Cold War thriller is packed with suspense and nail biting action. Richard... more info $10.99was $14.99 Buy Now

Spencer's Mountain DVD In Spencer's Mountain on DVD, Grandpa Spencer fathers nine boys in the shadow of... more info $5.98was $5.98 Buy Now

The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family... Those who enjoy tales of family survival and romance, encapsulated in... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

Once Upon A Mattress DVD Love and laughter abound in this terrific family musical. Based on the Broadway... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

The Barefoot Executive... In this swinging, 1971 Disney family adventure, a young Kurt Russell stars as an... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

The Boatniks DVD Hilarious hijinks abound in this seafaring Disney comedy about a bumbling Coast... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now



Also Known As: Wallace Maynard Cox Died: February 15, 1973
Born: December 6, 1924 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: actor, comedian, writer, puppeteer apprentice, dance instructor, author, playwright, silversmith, jewelry store manager, shoe-weaver

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Wally Cox once confessed "I used to consider myself insignificant and anonymous-looking". With his slight build, receding hairline, bespectacled visage and reedy voice, Cox confounds most notions of what a leading man should be. However that's exactly what he was on American TV for a significant chunk of the 1950s. Cox first gained fame as Robinson Peepers, a mild-mannered high school science teacher in the once beloved sitcom "Mr. Peepers" (NBC, 1952-55). By today's standards, "Mr. Peepers" was improbably gentle. Whereas contemporary TV comedy is dominated by wisecracking urbanites, this 50s hit, set in small-town America, rarely featured actual jokes. At Cox's insistence, the show also eschewed broad physical gags and belly laughs in favor of gentle character comedy and smiles. The show derived humor from slight exaggerations of mundane situations. As for the central character, comedian Steve Allen has observed "He is the mouse in us all; we want to protect him and feel tender toward him." Prior to that career transforming success, Cox had supported his sister and partially paralyzed mother (Eleanor Frances Atkinson, aka mystery writer Eleanor Blake) in NYC by working variously as a shoe-weaver,...

Wally Cox once confessed "I used to consider myself insignificant and anonymous-looking". With his slight build, receding hairline, bespectacled visage and reedy voice, Cox confounds most notions of what a leading man should be. However that's exactly what he was on American TV for a significant chunk of the 1950s. Cox first gained fame as Robinson Peepers, a mild-mannered high school science teacher in the once beloved sitcom "Mr. Peepers" (NBC, 1952-55).

By today's standards, "Mr. Peepers" was improbably gentle. Whereas contemporary TV comedy is dominated by wisecracking urbanites, this 50s hit, set in small-town America, rarely featured actual jokes. At Cox's insistence, the show also eschewed broad physical gags and belly laughs in favor of gentle character comedy and smiles. The show derived humor from slight exaggerations of mundane situations. As for the central character, comedian Steve Allen has observed "He is the mouse in us all; we want to protect him and feel tender toward him."

Prior to that career transforming success, Cox had supported his sister and partially paralyzed mother (Eleanor Frances Atkinson, aka mystery writer Eleanor Blake) in NYC by working variously as a shoe-weaver, puppeteer apprentice, dance instructor (he taught the Lindy Hop at a dance school for $1.50 a lesson) and silversmith. He and Marlon Brando had been friends since childhood and the pair shared a Greenwich Village apartment. Cox used to amuse his friends at parties by performing character monologues inspired by people he had met. Under the influence of Brando and other theatrical folk, Cox became affiliated with the American Creative Theater Group where the director urged him to shape his monologues into a nightclub act. Cox auditioned for Max Gordon, owner of the Village Vanguard, a legendary Greenwich Village nightclub, and made his professional debut the same night in December 1948. That initial one evening engagement extended into months. Cox's career as a hip downtown comic had begun.

Cox delivered his monologues in a quiet, droll manner. His characters tended to be small, unassuming people who earnestly shared all the intricate if banal details of their lives. Cox soon took his act uptown to more posh venues where he caught the eye of a theatrical producer who cast him in the Broadway musical revue "Dance Me A Song" in early 1950. The show received lukewarm reviews but Cox won raves. By the end of the run, he was sorting through more than 20 offers for work in film, TV, theater and clubs. Cox's stock grew as he played the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room and appeared on numerous TV and radio shows headlined by Perry Como, Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore and Arthur Godfrey. He even hosted his own NYC radio show over WNEW in October 1951. That same year, Cox segued decisively to TV with a starring role as a mild-mannered trouble-prone policeman in NBC's "Philco Television Playhouse" production of David Swift's "The Copper". The success of this outing with public and press alike inspired producer Fred Coe to develop a sitcom pilot for the unusual performer. Little did they realize that Cox would basically play variations on Mr. Peepers for the rest of his career.

After his sitcom succumbed to the overwhelming popularity of "The Jack Benny Show", Cox returned to nightclub work and TV guest shots in series and specials. A follow-up sitcom, "The Adventures of Hiram Holiday" (NBC, 1956-57), failed after just four months but in 1958 NBC signed Cox to an unusual seven-year, $50,000-a-year contract to develop special projects for the network. Not much came of this opportunity but Cox managed to write a play, ("Moonbirds" which closed after three performances) and several books.

Cox made his film debut as a comic character actor in the poorly received musical remake "State Fair" (1962). He won the best notices as a competition judge who gets pickled from eating too much brandy-spiked mincemeat. That same year, he acted with Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin in the uncompleted George Cukor-directed comedy "Something's Got to Give". Cox played a shoe store clerk whom Monroe attempts to pass off as her desert island partner. He returned to the bottle in "Spencer's Mountain" (1963) as a young reverend whom a free-thinking Henry Fonda gets drunk on his first day in town. Cox continued to prove himself adept in feature ensemble work in the air crash mystery "Fate Is the Hunter" (1964), the comedy anthologies "The Yellow Rolls-Royce" (also 1964) and "A Guide For the Married Man" (1967). He provided tragi-comic support as dedicated sonarman Merlin Queffle in the seagoing military drama "The Bedford Incident" (1965). Cox worked with his old pal Brando playing a doctor in the WWII drama "Morituri" (also 1965). Beginning with the lackluster Disney period musical comedy "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band" (1968), Cox began appearing primarily in broad family comedies. He garnered many laughs in "The Barefoot Executive" as the stooge of a desperate TV programmer (Joe Flynn) and as a playboy "sailor" who never leaves dock (he replaced the engine with a wine cellar) in "The Boatniks" (both 1970).

Back on TV, Cox found a new young audience as the voice of the superheroic canine "Underdog" (NBC, 1964-66; CBS, 1966-67; NBC, 1968-73) and his humble, lovable alter-ego Shoeshine Boy on the popular children's cartoon from producer Jay Ward. Viewers became reacquainted with his mousy features and low-key witticisms as the panelist in the upper left "square" from 1966-73 on the game show "Hollywood Squares". He also represented Jockey Shorts ("Outside I might look like Wally Cox, but inside, I feel like Tyrone Power") in a series of commercials. Sadly, his greatest TV work "Mr. Peepers" is all but lost to younger viewers as they were broadcast live and few kinescopes survive.

When Cox died in Bel Air from a heart attack at age 48 in 1973, his loyal friend Brando flew in from Tahiti to handle the cremation.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Night Strangler, The (1973) Titus Berry
2.
 Magic Carpet (1972) Harold Kane
3.
 The Barefoot Executive (1971) Mertons
4.
5.
 Up Your Teddy Bear (1970) Clyde
6.
 The Boatniks (1970) Jason Bennett
9.
 The Bedford Incident (1965) Seaman Merlin Queffle
10.
 Morituri (1965) Dr. Ambach
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Parents divorced when Cox was a youth
:
Moved from Detroit to NYC with mother and sister Eleanor
1942:
Enrolled in the City College of New York to study botany
:
Left school when mother striken by partial paralysis; became the family's primary breadwinner
:
Worked variously as a shoe-weaver, silversmith and puppeteer apprentice
:
Drafted into the army, sent for training to Camp Walters, Texas
:
Hospitalized from heat strokes; received honorable discharge after four months
1946:
Went into business for himself as a silversmith; made tie clasps, cuff links and shirt studs for NYC haberdashers; netted around $40 per week
:
Performed an informal comic monologue at a party; did an impression of a soldier he had once met
:
Began performing monologues regularly at parties
:
Influenced to act by his childhood friend and Greenwich Village roommate Marlon Brando; made other friends in the theater
:
Became affiliated with the American Creative Theater Group where the director advised him to shape his monologues into a nightclub act
1948:
In December, at a theatrical party, met Judy Freed who set up an audition with Max Gordon, owner of the Village Vanguard, a popular jazz cafe in NYC's Greenwich Village
1948:
Made nightclub performing debut at the Village Vanguard the same night he auditioned; initial one evening engagement extended into months
:
Took his act up to the Blue Angel in midtown Manhattan
:
Caught the attention of theatrical producer Dwight Deere Wiman who cast him in his new musical revue
1949:
Early TV appearance as a "student" on "School House", a comedy variety series on the DuMont network set in a schoolhouse
1950:
Broadway debut, "Dance Me A Song"
1950:
Hailed for his performance, received more than 20 offers for work in film, TV, theater and clubs by the time "Dance Me A Song" closed
1950:
Began undergoing psychoanalysis (date approximate)
1950:
Performed at the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room and on numerous TV and radio shows including those headlined by Perry Como, Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore and Arthur Godfrey (dates approximate)
1951:
Hosted his own NYC radio show on WNEW in October
1951:
Starred as a mild-mannered trouble-prone policeman in the "Philco Television Playhouse" production of David Swift's "The Copper" on NBC (date approximate); impressed the show's producer, Fred Coe, who began developing a pilot for a comedy vehicle
:
Starred as Robinson Peepers, a meek high school science teacher in the hit NBC sitcom, "Mr. Peepers"; performed live in front of a NYC studio audience; began as a summer replacement series
1953:
Began acting in summer theater productions playing the part of Irwin in "Three Men on a Horse"
1956:
Returned to nightclub work; heckled off the stage in Las Vegas; bowed out of the engagement after a few days
:
Starred as a mild-mannered proofreader with remarkable abilities in the short-lived (four months) sitcom, "The Adventures of Hiram Holiday"
1958:
Signed a seven-year, $50,000-a-year contract to develop special projects for NBC
1959:
Wrote a play, "Moonbirds", which closed after three performances
1962:
Feature debut, "State Fair"
1962:
Co-starred in the unfinished Marilyn Monroe comedy "Something's Got to Give" directed by George Cukor with Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse
1964:
Guest starred as a programmer of an amorous computer in "From Agnes--With Love", an episode of "The Twilight Zone"
:
Provided the voices of the humble "Shoeshine Boy" and his heroic alter-ego "Underdog" on the popular Saturday morning cartoon from producer Jay Ward
:
Became regular panelist (in the upper left "square") on the tic-tac-toe game show "Hollywood Squares"
1967:
Portrayed a scoutmaster in the TV-movie pilot for "Ironside"
:
Appeared in TV commercials for Jockey Shorts
1971:
Final film appearance, "The Barefoot Executive", a Disney satire of TV programming
1973:
Final TV-movie, "The Night Strangler"; played a librarian who assists reporter-cum-supernatural investigator Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin)
1973:
Died of a heart attack in Bel Air; Brando flew in from Tahiti to handle the cremation
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

New York University: New York , New York -
City College of New York: New York , New York - 1942

Notes

Cox was nominated for Emmy awards for Best Comedian in 1952 and Best Male Star of a Regular Series in 1953.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Marilyn Gennaro. Fourth wife; married on June 7, 1954.

Family close complete family listing

father:
George Wallace Cox. Advertising copywriter. Divorced when Cox was a youngster.
mother:
Eleanor Frances Atkinson. Writer. Mystery writer; divorced when Cox was a youngster.
sister:
Eleanor Cox.

Bibliography close complete biography

"My Life as a Small Boy"
"Ralph Makes Good" Simon & Schuster
"The Tenth Life of Osiris Oaks"

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute