Elisha Cook

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Elisha Vanslyck Cook Jr. (born December 26, 1903 in San Francisco , California , † May 18, 1995 in Big Pine , California) was an American actor . He became known through the frequent incarnation of cowardly or neurotic crooks in numerous gangster films and film noirs .


Cook, the son of a stage actor and producer, grew up in Chicago and began his career as a vaudeville and Broadway performer in New York at the age of fourteen . He began his professional career in October 1925 in The Crooked Friday ; one of his greatest successes was his leading role in the world premiere of Eugene O'Neill's play Ah, Wilderness! In 1928 his portrayal in Her Unborn Child received critical acclaim. Cook repeated the interpretation in the film adaptation of the play the following year; one of his rare film appearances until the mid-1930s.

In 1936 Cook signed a contract with the film production company Paramount Pictures , later he moved to Warner Brothers . In the years that followed, the slender, weasel-faced, inconspicuous, little actor worked with some of the most famous directors of his time such as John Huston , Howard Hawks and Robert Siodmak . He was almost always cast as a traitor, dodger, missed guy and so appeared in numerous batch roles, often as a criminal. In 1942 he interrupted his career for two years and joined the military. Cook made his most striking appearances in the 1940s and 1950s in crime films such as Die Spur des Falken (1942; in which he repeatedly endured taunts as the little crook “Wilmer” from Humphrey Bogart's “Sam Spade”), Dead Sleeping Stuck (1946 ; in a positive, but no less tragic and poisonous role as "Jones") and The Bill Did Not Work (1956; as a cashier involved in a robbery and suffering from his diabolical wife).

In a great many films, Cook's characters ended up suffering a more violent death. Only in rare cases did his characters turn out to be the actual murderer. There are also some westerns in Cook's filmography. He also played outstanding roles in Witness wanted , in which he played a drum solo, and in My Great Friend Shane with a terrific death scene. In addition to his film career, which lasted until the 1980s - in 1974, for example, he repeated his role as “Wilmer” for a failed sequel to The Falcon's Trail - he was also in television series such as Die Untorechlichen , A Thousand Miles of Dust (Rawhide) , Perry Mason and Raumschiff Enterprise to see. From 1981 he was a regular guest star in the series Magnum , in which he interpreted the former gangster king "Ice Pick", who chose Hawaii as his retirement home.

Cook lived in a very secluded private life in a Californian mountain hut and received his offers by courier. He was married twice: he divorced his first wife, the actress Mary Lou Cook, in 1942 and married Elvira "Peggy" McKenna. Cook and McKenna divorced in 1968, but married a second time in 1971 and remained married until their death in 1990. Elisha Cook died of a stroke in 1995 at the age of 91 .

Filmography (selection)


  • 1981: Telluride Film Festival
  • Silver Medallion Award, shared with John Carradine, Margaret Hamilton, Woody Strode

Web links

Commons : Elisha Cook  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Yvonne Shafer: Performing O'Neill: Conversations with Actors and Directors. St. Martin's Press, New York 2000, pp. 56-57.
  2. ^ Geoff Mayer, Brian McDonnell: Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Greenwood Press, Westport 2007, pp. 136-137.
  3. Kay Less : The film's great personal dictionary . The actors, directors, cameramen, producers, composers, screenwriters, film architects, outfitters, costume designers, editors, sound engineers, make-up artists and special effects designers of the 20th century. Volume 2: C - F. John Paddy Carstairs - Peter Fritz. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89602-340-3 , p. 145.
  4. Short biography of Hal Erickson at Rovi
  5. ^ Elisha Cook in the Internet Movie Database .