Edit
Elisha Cook Jr. Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (3) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (6)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 26 December 1903San Francisco, California, USA
Date of Death 18 May 1995Big Pine, California, USA  (stroke)
Birth NameElisha Vanslyck Cook Jr.
Nicknames Cookie
Hollywood's Lightest Heavy
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (3)

Although this pint-sized actor started out in films often in innocuous college-student roles in mid-30s rah-rahs, playing alongside the likes of a pretty Gloria Stuart or a young, pre-"Oz" Judy Garland, casting directors would soon enough discover his flair for portraying intense neurotics or spineless double-dealers. Thus was he graduated from the innocuous to the noxious. In Warners' They Won't Forget (1937), for example, he plays the role of a student whose social engagement with a young Lana Turner, debuting here in a featured role, seems to have been broken by her whereas, possibly unbeknownst to him, she has quite mysteriously been murdered. Cook becomes so enraged, venting such venom, that the movie audience can only look upon him as a prime suspect in Lana's demise. In Universal's Phantom Lady (1944), he portrays a nightclub-orchestra drummer who, under the intoxicating influence of some substance or other, encounters Ella Raines during an afternoon's band practice. Thoroughly taken with her slinky allure, he enacts a drum-solo piece that is of such crescendo, and played with such innuendo, as to suggest - glaringly - nothing except his own fantasized sexual journey from cymbal foreplay through bass-drum climax.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Takacs <kinephile@aol.com>

He debuted on stage at age 14 and worked in vaudeville, stock companies and Broadway. His only film appearance prior to 1936 was re-playing his stage role, the romantic juvenile lead, in Her Unborn Child (1930). After more work on Broadway, he settled in Hollywood in 1936. From then on, he played type-cast small-time gangsters. His best-known role was that of Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon (1941), the gunsel to whom Bogart spat: "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter". He is also remembered for the sexual innuendo in his scene as the mysterious drummer Cliff March in Phantom Lady (1944). Since he was very slightly built, he has been referred to as the screen's lightest heavy. He appeared in movies through the early 1980s and in many TV shows during the rest of the decade. He suffered a loss of speech due to a stroke in 1990. At age 91, he was the last surviving member of the "Falcon" cast.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

One of the most familiar character actors of the mid-twentieth century, small-statured Elisha Cook Jr. would be a Hollywood immortal if only for his roles in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Shane (1953). He attended St. Albans College and the Chicago Academy of Dramatic Art, and made his stage debut at age fourteen. He appeared in vaudeville and stock and on Broadway "Lightnin'", "Kingdom of God", "Henry Behave", "Many a Slip", "Ah, Wilderness!" and "Her Unborn Child". He made his film debut in the film version of Her Unborn Child (1930), but did not make the transition to full-time film actor until 1936. His appearance of timidity and wistfulness was counterbalanced by a surprising ferocity, and he quickly became a staple in movies playing both sympathetic and vicious characters. Although he returned occasionally to the stage in such works as Bertolt Brecht's "Arturo Ui", and he worked frequently on television, his career was concentrated on the screen. He continued to give wonderfully memorable performances in such films as Electra Glide in Blue (1973) and Carny (1980) far into advanced age. He lived in his later years in the desert near Bishop, California, far from Hollywood, without an agent, working whenever someone took the trouble to track him down.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (2)

Peggy McKenna (1943 - 18 May 1995) (his death)
Mary Lou Cook (1929 - 1942) (divorced)

Trivia (6)

Died on the same day as his Johnny Cool (1963) co-star Elizabeth Montgomery.
Enlisted in U.S. Army on 15 August 1942. Height and weight at enlistment given as 5' 5" and 123 lb. Education given as three years of high school.
He received his nickname "Hollywood's Lightest Heavy" from playing cowardly villains in his movies.
Was an assistant stage manager at age 17.
Was a lifelong registered Republican.
Biography in "Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir" by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page