Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Character Actor Corner: Chill Wills


He began performing in early childhood, going on to appear in tent shows, vaudeville, and stock throughout the Southwest. He also formed Chill Wills and the Avalon Boys, a singing group in which he was the leader and bass vocalist, in the '30s.

From  1930s through the 1970s he would appear in dozens of films,  but is best known for his westerns. Wills acted as sidekick in B westerns with such cowboy actors as George O'Brien, and he even did the voiceover of Francis the Talking Mule in the popular Universal-International film series of the same name.  In the fifties he appeared in Giant (1956). Perhaps the greatest moment of his career was being nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in The Alamo (1960). In the 1960s Wills' career began to slow, but he still found a few roles in The Rounders (1965; with Glenn Ford) and Fireball 500 (1966; with Fabian, Frankie Avalon, and Annette Funicello).

In 1975 he released a singing album--his first.

Wills passed away from cancer at the age of 73 in December 1978


While campaigning for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1960, Wills took out a series of ads with the declaration "Win, lose or draw, you`re all my cousins and I love you."It was signed "Your cousin, Chill Wills". One member of the Academy placed a response ad stating: "Dear Mr. Chill Wills, I am delighted to be your cousin but I voted for Sal Mineo. "It was signed, Groucho Marx!

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