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"Keep on riding me and they're gonna be
picking iron out of your liver."

- as Wilmer Cook from The Maltese Falcon (1941)

ELISHA COOK JR.

Having appeared in so many "cult" films, Elisha Cook Jr. has always been one of the most eagerly sought out interview subjects by film historians.

Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr. (December 26th, 1903 – May 18th, 1995) was an American character actor, probably best remembered as the "gunsel" Wilmer, who tries to intimidate Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Cook may just be the most Trivia-Connected actor in the Neat Stuff Universe with an acting career that spanned more than 60 years. He was in just about everything with film roles in The Big Sleep, Shane and House on Haunted Hill to TV series like Star Trek, The Wild Wild West and Batman.

Cook was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Sr., a pharmacist. He grew up in Chicago, starting out in vaudeville and stock by the age of fourteen. He was a traveling actor in the East Coast and the 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 period playing weaklings or sadistic losers and hoods. Cook's characters usually ended up being killed off (strangled, poisoned or shot). 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 (1944), he portrays a slimy, intoxicated nightclub-orchestra drummer to memorable effect. He had a substantial uncredited role as Bobo in I, the Jury (1953).

Cook may be best-remembered for playing Wilmer, the "gunsel", in The Maltese Falcon (above left with Sidney Greenstreet, Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, 1941), Other notable roles included the doomed informant Harry Jones in The Big Sleep (1946), a henchman (Marty Waterman) of the murderous title character in Born to Kill (1947), the elevator operator Eddie in Don't Bother to Knock (below center with Marilyn Monroe and Richard Widmark, 1952), the pugnacious ex-Confederate soldier 'Stonewall' Torrey in Shane (1953), and George Peatty, the shady, cuckolded husband in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956). He also appeared in William Castle's horror film House on Haunted Hill (1959) and Rosemary's Baby (1968).

Cook made numerous appearances on American television. He played a private detective in an episode of Adventures of Superman television series entitled Semi-Private Eye (1953). That same season, he guest starred on NBC's The Dennis Day Show. In 1960 he was cast in the episode, "The Hermit", of the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys, with Walter Brennan. He appeared as Jeremy Hake in the episode "The Bequest" of the ABC western series, The Rebel (1960), starring Nick Adams. He appeared in the second episode of ABC's crime drama, The Fugitive.

Cook made two guest appearances on the CBS courtroom drama series Perry Mason. In 1958 he played Art Crowley in "The Case of the Pint-Sized Client," and in 1964 he played Reelin' Peter Rockwell in "The Case of the Reckless Rockhound". Cook played lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the Star Trek episode "Court Martial" (1967), Isaac Isaacson on the Batman television series, Weasel Craig in Salem's Lot, and later had a long-term recurring role as Honolulu crime lord "Ice Pick" on CBS's Magnum, P.I.. He also appeared in The Bionic Woman episode, "Once a Thief" (1977).

Cook was married twice, to Mary Lou Cook in 1929 (divorced in 1942) and Peggy McKenna Cook in 1943, a union which lasted until his death. Cook died of a stroke on May 18th, 1995 in Big Pine, California at aged 91. He had no children.

Cook lived in Bishop, California, typically summering on Lake Sabrina in the Sierra Nevada. 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."

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    Selected Elisha Cook Jr. TVography

The A-Team
- The Road to Hope (1985)

The Adventures of Ellery Queen
- Mission for Murder (1955)

Adventures of Superman
- Semi-Private Eye (1954)

Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok
- The Boy and the Hound Dog (1955)

ALF
- We're So Sorry, Uncle Albert (1988)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
- Salvage (1955)

Baretta
- Think Mink (1977)
- Street Edition (1976)
- A Bite of the Apple (1975)

Bat Masterson
- No Funeral for Thorn (1959)
- Double Showdown (1958)

Batman
- The Duo Defy (1967)
- Ice Spy (1967)

Big Town
- Dangerous Man (1953)

The Bionic Woman
- Once a Thief (1977)

The Blue Knight
- Bull's Eye (1976)

Bonanza
- The Weary Willies (1970)
- A Dollar's Worth of Trouble (1966)

Bring 'Em Back Alive
- Wilmer Bass and the Serengeti Kid (1982)

Burke's Law
- Nightmare in the Sun (1965)

Cimarron Strip
- The Battle of Bloody Stones (1967)

Chicago Story
- Subterranean Blues (1982)

The Chicago Teddy Bears
- The Big Kisser (1971)

Climax!
- The Secret Thread (1956)

Crusader
- Nine Priceless Objects (1956)

The Dakotas
- A Nice Girl from Goliath (1963)

The Deputy
- Brand of Honesty (1961)

Destry
- Law and Order Day (1964)

The Dick Powell Show
- The Judge (1963)
- Borderline (1962)

Dick Tracy
- Episode #1.2 (1950)

The Fall Guy
- Tag Team (1986)

The Ford Television Theatre
- Margin for Fear (1953)

The Fugitive
- The Witch (1963)

General Electric Theater
- A Voice on the Phone (1961)
- Open House (1961)
- Silent Ambush (1958)

The George Sanders Mystery Theater
- Round Trip (1957)

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
- Not So Desperate Hours (1969)

Gunsmoke
- Breckinridge (1965)
- Hung High (1964)
- Odd Man Out (1959)
- Matt for Murder (1958)

I Spy
- Rome... Take Away Three (1966)

Insight
- The White Star Garage (1982)

Ironside
- The Far Side of the Fence (1974)

The Islanders
- The Twenty-Six Paper (1961)

The Jackie Gleason Show
- Santa and the Bookies (1953)

Johnny Staccato
- Solomon (1960)
- Evil (1959)

Johnny Ringo
- Dead Wait (1959)

Laramie
- The Tumbleweed Wagon (1961)

The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp
- The Equalizer (1957)

The Lone Wolf
- Deep Sea Diving (1955)

Lucan
- Brother Wolf (1978)

Magnum, P.I.
- Resolutions: Part 1 and 2 (1988)
- Forever in Time (1987)
- The People vs. Orville Wright (1987)
- Death of the Flowers (1986)
- Kapu (1986)
- A.A.P.I. (1986)
- A Little Bit of Luck... a Little Bit of Grief (1986)
- Way of the Stalking Horse (1986)
- The Love-for-Sale Boat (1985)
- The Legacy of Garwood Huddle (1984)
- Distant Relative (1983)
- Ghost Writer (1981)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- The Concrete Overcoat Affair: Part 1 and 2 (1966)

Mannix
- The Green Man (1974)

McCloud
- Encounter with Aries (1971)

McCoy
- In Again Out Again (1976)

The Millionaire
- The Judge William Westholme Story (1957)

The Monroes
- To Break a Colt (1967)

The Motorola Television Hour
- Brandenburg Gate (1953)

Movin' On
- The Time of His Life (1974)

Night Court
- Married Alive (1985)

The Odd Couple
- Our Fathers (1974)

Outlaws
- The Dark Sunrise of Griff Kincaid (1962)

Panic!
- Emergency (1958)

Perry Mason
- The Case of the Reckless Rockhound (1964)
- The Case of the Pint-Sized Client (1958)

Peter Gunn
- The Long, Long Ride (1960)

The Philip Morris Playhouse
- The Murderer Who Wasn't (1954)

Police Story
- Little Boy Lost (1975)

Quincy M.E.
- The Deadly Connection (1977)
- ...The Thigh Bone's Connected to the Knee Bone... (1977)

The RCA Victor Show
- Party Pooper (1954)

Rawhide
- Piney (1964)
- Incident in the Middle of Nowhere (1961)
- Incident of a Burst of Evil (1959)

The Real McCoys
- The Hermit (1960)

The Rebel
- The Bequest (1960)

The Road West
- Shaman (1966)

S.W.A.T.
- Courthouse (1975)
- A Coven of Killers (1975)

Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
- Curfew at Midnight (1958)
- Flowers for Jenny (1956)

The Sheriff of Cochise
- The Safe Man (1957)

Simon & Simon
- Treasure (1986)
- Shadow of Sam Penny (1983)

Star Trek
- Court Martial (1967)

Startime
- The Young Juggler (1960)

Starsky and Hutch
- Lady Blue (1975)

Summer Fun
- McNab's Lab (1966)

Sunset Strip
- The Inverness Cape Caper (1961)

Surfside 6
- Witness for the Defense (1961)

Switch
- The Four Horsemen (1977)

Temple Houston
- Gallows in Galilee (1963)

The Third Man
- The Trouble at Drill Hill (1959)

Thriller
- The Fatal Impulse (1960)

Tightrope
- The Long Odds (1960)

Tombstone Territory
- Eyewitness (1960)

Trackdown
- The Trail (1958)

Treasury Men in Action
- The Case of the Elder Brother (1955)

TV Reader's Digest
- The Trigger Finger Clue (1956)

The Twilight Zone
- Welcome to Winfield/Quarantine (1986)

The Untouchables
- Bird in the Hand (1962)

Wagon Train
- The Ben Engel Story (1964)
- The Nancy Palmer Story (1961)
- The Tracy Sadler Story (1960)

Whirlybirds
- Human Bomb (1957)

Whiz Kids
- The Lollypop Gang Strikes Back (1984)

The Wild Wild West
- The Night of the Bars of Hell (1966)
- The Night of the Double-Edged Knife (1965)

    Selected Elisha Cook Jr. Filmography

1930

Her Unborn Child

Chills and Fever (Short uncredited)

1931

Honor Among Lovers (uncredited)

1936

Pigskin Parade

Two in a Crowd

1937

Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (uncredited)

Breezing Home (uncredited)

Life Begins in College

Danger - Love at Work

Wife, Doctor and Nurse

They Won't Forget

The Devil Is Driving

Love Is News

1938

Newsboys' Home

Submarine Patrol

My Lucky Star

Three Blind Mice (uncredited)

1939

Grand Jury Secrets

1940

Tin Pan Alley

Public Deb No. 1

Stranger on the Third Floor

He Married His Wife

1941

The Maltese Falcon

Sergeant York (uncredited)

Hellzapoppin'

Ball of Fire

I Wake Up Screaming

Man at Large

Love Crazy

1942

Manila Calling

Wildcat

A-Haunting We Will Go

In This Our Life

Sleepytime Gal

A Gentleman at Heart

1943

Kill or Be Killed

1944

Dark Waters

Dark Mountain

Up in Arms

Phantom Lady

1945

Dillinger

Why Girls Leave Home

1946

The Big Sleep

Two Smart People

Joe Palooka, Champ

The Falcon's Alibi

Cinderella Jones

Blonde Alibi

1947

The Gangster

The Long Night

Born to Kill

Fall Guy

1949

The Great Gatsby

Flaxy Martin

1951

Behave Yourself!

1952

Don't Bother to Knock

1953

Thunder Over the Plains

I, the Jury (uncredited)

Shane

1954

Drum Beat

Outlaw's Daughter

1955

The Indian Fighter

Indian Agent (TV Movie)

Trial

Timberjack

1956

Accused of Murder

The Killing

1957

Baby Face Nelson

Plunder Road

Chicago Confidential

The Lonely Man

Voodoo Island

1959

Day of the Outlaw

House on Haunted Hill

1960

College Confidential

Platinum High School

1961

One-Eyed Jacks

1963

The Haunted Palace

The Judge (TV Movie)

Papa's Delicate Condition

Johnny Cool

Black Zoo

1964

The Glass Cage

Blood on the Arrow

1966

McNab's Lab (TV Movie)

The Spy in the Green Hat

1967

Welcome to Hard Times

1968

Rosemary's Baby

1969

The Great Bank Robbery

Cry for Poor Wally

1970

Night Chase (TV Movie)

Night Slaves (TV Movie)

El Condor

The Movie Murderer (TV Movie)

1972

The Night Stalker (TV Movie)

Blacula

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid

The Scarecrow (TV Movie)

1973

The Outfit

Electra Glide in Blue

Emperor of the North Pole

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

Messiah of Evil

1974

The Phantom of Hollywood (TV Movie)

1975

The Black Bird

Winterhawk

1976

St. Ives

1977

Dead of Night (TV Movie)

1979

1941

Salem's Lot (TV Movie)

The Champ

Mad Bull (TV Movie)

1980

Tom Horn

1981

The Trouble with Grandpa (TV Movie)

Leave 'em Laughing (TV Movie)

Harry's War

1982

Terror at Alcatraz (TV Movie)

Hammett

National Lampoon's Movie Madness

1983

Shadow of Sam Penny (TV Movie)

This Girl for Hire (TV Movie)

1984

Pigs vs. Freaks (TV Movie)

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (TV Movie)

Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse

1987

The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (TV Movie)

    Elisha Cook Jr. links

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