Colorful character actor of American Westerns. Named "Chill" as an ironic comment on his birth date being the hottest day of 1902. A musician from his youth, he performed from the age of 12 with tent shows, in vaudeville, and with stock companies. While performing in vaudeville in Kansas City, he married ballet dancer Betty Chappelle, with whom he had two children. He formed a musical group, Chill Wills and His Avalon Boys. During an appearance at the Trocadero in Hollywood, they were spotted by an RKO executive, subsequently appearing as a group in several low-budget Westerns. After a prominent appearance with The Avalon Boys as both himself and the bass-singing voice of Stan Laurel in Way Out West (1937), Wills disbanded the group and began a solo career as a usually jovial (but occasionally sinister) character actor, primarily in Westerns. His delightful portrayal of Beekeeper in The Alamo (1960) won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but his blatant and embarrassing campaign for the Oscar cost him the award and subjected him to a great deal of humiliation -- and probably cost the film a number of awards as well. His wife died in 1971, and he remarried, to Novadeen Googe, in 1973. He continued to work in films and television, usually in roguishly lovable good-ol'-boy parts, up until his death in 1978.
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