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Elisha Cook, Jr. 1903-1995

Country : San Francisco, CA
Profession : Actor
Date of birth : 1903-12-26
Date of death : 1995-05-18
Cause of Death : Stroke

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Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr. (December 26, 1903 – May 18, 1995) was an American actor who made a career out of playing cowardly villains and neurotics in dozens of films. He was noted for his portrayal of the "gunsel" Wilmer, who tries to intimidate Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.


Cook started out in vaudeville and stock by age 14. He was a traveling actor in the East and 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.

In 1936, Cook settled in Hollywood and, after playing a series of college-aged parts, began a long stint playing weaklings or sadistic losers and hoods. His acting career spanned over sixty years. Cook's characters usually ended up being killed off (strangled, poisoned or shot); he was arguably 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, he portrays a slimy, intoxicated nightclub-orchestra drummer.

Other notable roles included Wilmer the "gunsel" in The Maltese Falcon (1941), a henchman of the title character in Born to Kill, Harry Jones in The Big Sleep (1946), the pugnacious ex-Confederate soldier Torrey in Shane (1953), and George Peatty, the hen-pecked husband to Marie Windsor, in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956). He also starred in William Castle's classic horror film House on Haunted Hill, released in 1959.

Cook played a private detective in a 1953 episode of Adventures of Superman TV series entitled Semi-Private Eye. He played lawyer Samuel T. Cogley on in the Star Trek episode "Court Martial", Isaac Isaacson on the Batman tv series, and later had a long-term recurring role as Icepick on Magnum, P.I..

Personal life

Cook was born in San Francisco, California, United States, North America, the son of Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Sr. (1870-?), a pharmacist in San Francisco. He grew up in Chicago.

Cook married twice. His first marriage was to Mary Lou Cook in 1929, but they divorced in 1942. His second marriage, which lasted until his death, was to Peggy McKenna Cook in 1944. He had no children, although he spent time raising a niece. He lived in Bishop, California, typically summering on Lake Sabrina in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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."

Cook died on 18 May 1995 in Big Pine, California.


  • Her Unborn Child (1930) (film debut)
  • Pigskin Parade (1936)
  • They Won't Forget (1937)
  • Submarine Patrol (1938)
  • He Married His Wife (1940)
  • Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
  • Tin Pan Alley (1940)
  • Ball of Fire (1941)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Hellzapoppin' (1941)
  • A-Haunting We Will Go (1942)
  • Baptism of Fire (1943)
  • Phantom Lady (1944)
  • Dark Waters (1944)
  • Dillinger (1945)
  • Two Smart People (1946)
  • The Big Sleep (1946)
  • Born to Kill (1947)
  • The Long Night (1947)
  • The Great Gatsby (1949)
  • Don't Bother to Knock (1952)
  • Shane (1953)
  • The Killing (1956)
  • Accused of Murder (1956)
  • Baby Face Nelson (1957)
  • House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  • One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
  • Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  • Black Zoo (1963)
  • The Haunted Palace (1963)
  • Welcome to Hard Times (1967)
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  • The Night Stalker (1972) (TV)
  • The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
  • Messiah of Evil (1972)
  • Blacula (1972)
  • Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) (uncredited)
  • Emperor of the North Pole (1973)
  • Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
  • The Outfit (1973)
  • St. Ives (1976)
  • The Champ (1979)
  • Salem's Lot (1979) (TV)
  • 1941 (1979)
  • Tom Horn (1980)
  • Carny (1980)
  • Harry's War (1981)
  • Hammett (1982)
  • Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse (1984)


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