Elisha Cook, Jr.

Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr. (December 26, 1903May 18, 1995) was an American actor who made a career out of playing cowardly villains and neurotics, earning him the nickname "Hollywood's lightest heavy". and then became a Broadway actor.


Early life

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


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, he 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 (another of Cook's shy anti-heroes) in Hellzapoppin', 1941. In Universal's Phantom Lady, he portrays a slimy, intoxicated nightclub-orchestra drummer. Other notable roles include Wilmer the "gunsel" in The Maltese Falcon (1941), "pug ugly" Marty Waterman in Born to Kill, Harry Jones in The Big Sleep (1946), Torrey in Shane (1953), and George Peatty, the hen-pecked husband to Marie Windsor, in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956).

Cook played a private detective in a 1953 episode of Adventures of Superman TV series entitled Semi-Private Eye. In the series DVD commentary, Jack Larson describes this as his favorite episode, both for being allowed to play a self-styled Humphrey Bogart-style shamus, and for the chance to work with "Cookie", who became a good friend. He played lawyer Samuel T. Cogley on in the Star Trek episode "Court Martial", and later had a long-term recurring role as Icepick on Magnum, P.I..

Personal life

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.”

He married twice, first to Mary Lou Cook between 1929 and 1942. After they divorced, he was married to Peggy McKenna Cook from 1944 until his death. 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, and died on May 18, 1995 in Big Pine, California.

His ashes were scattered somewhere after his cremation.



Dark Passage (1947)

External links

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