American actor (1903-1995). Born in San Francisco on the day after Christmas, he attended the Chicago Academy of Dramatic Art and St. Albans College. He made his stage debut at only 14 and worked for several years in Vaudeville, stock companies, and Broadway, in plays like "Kingdom of God," "Henry Behave," "Many a Slip," "Ah Wilderness!", and "Her Unborn Child," which was adapted for the screen in 1929. This marked his official screen debut, though he didn't return to Hollywood until the mid-'30s.

Cook's first roles on film cast him as a wholesome, wide-eyed college student, mainly because he looked so wholesome and wide-eyed, and he was short enough to be able to pass as a youngster. But once directors realized that he could neurotics, cowards, and psychopaths, many of his roles began to gravitate in those directions. Not that long after co-starring with Judy Garland in sweet romances, he appeared in "They Won't Forget" in 1937 as a student whose astounding rage at the news of Lana Turner's death makes him the prime suspect, and in 1944's "Phantom Lady," he played a drummer whose drum solo serves as a not-very-subtle bit of innuendo on what he'd like to do with sexy Ella Raines. He is still best known as Wilmer Cook, the cheap, dim-witted gunsel in John Huston's "The Maltese Falcon." Because of his small build and tendency to play thugs and villains, he was sometimes called the silver screen's lightest heavy.

Still, Cook's talents allowed him to play a wide variety of characters, both on television and on film. He made occasional returns to the stage, performing memorably in plays like Bertolt Brecht's "Arturo Ui."

Some of Cook's movies included: "Her Unborn Child," "Two in a Crowd," "Pigskin Parade," "Love is News," "They Won't Forget," "Life Begins in College," "Tin Pan Alley," "The Maltese Falcon," "I Wake Up Screaming," "A-Haunting We Will Go," "Wildcat," "Phantom Lady," "Dillinger," "The Big Sleep," "The Great Gatsby," "Don't Bother to Knock," "I, the Jury," "Shane," "Superman's Peril," "Trial," "The Killing," "Chicago Confidential," "Plunder Road," "Baby Face Nelson," "The House on Haunted Hill," "The Haunted Palace," "Rosemary's Baby," "The Scarecrow," "The Night Stalker," "Blacula" (I kid you not!), "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," "Electra Glide in Blue," "The Black Bird" (a parody of "The Maltese Falcon," Cook reprised his role as Wilmer), "The Champ," "Salem's Lot," "1941," "Tom Horn," "Carny," and "Hammett."

Cook also made guest appearances in a colossal number of television shows, including "The Twilight Zone," "Star Trek," "Gunsmoke," "Perry Mason," "Bonanza," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Odd Couple," "Rawhide," "The Wild Wild West," "Ironside," "Police Story," "Baretta," "Batman," "The A-Team," "ALF," and "Magnum, P.I.," where he had a recurring role as Francis "Icepick" Hofstetler.

In his later years, Cook moved to the California desert. He didn't employ an agent and worked for whoever cared to go to the trouble of tracking him down. He suffered a stroke in 1990 that robbed him of his ability to speak. He died after another stroke five years later in Big Pine, California.

Research from the Internet Movie Database (

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