Henry Wilcoxon

Henry Wilcoxon
Los Angeles Times


Henry Wilcoxon
Film: South side of the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Actor | Producer
Born Aug. 9, 1905 in Roseau, Dominica
Died March 6, 1984 of heart failure in Burbank, Calif.

Henry Wilcoxon was an actor whose career flourished during the birth of sound films, most spectacularly for Cecil B. DeMille. He later helped DeMille produce some of his extravagant epics.

The 6-foot 2-inch Wilcoxon was known for his chiseled, hawk-like features. He was born to British parents on the Caribbean island of Dominica on Sept. 8, 1905. He moved to London as a youth and made his stage debut there in 1925. He made his film debut in 1931 in the British production of "The Perfect Lady."

His work in subsequent British pictures brought him to DeMille's attention when the director was casting about for a Marc Antony to play opposite Claudette Colbert in "Cleopatra."

In a 1976 interview with The Times, the lanky actor remembered how the papers carried announcements about how "DeMille had found his Antony. But since no one in this country knew me, fans just started calling me 'that British actor, the guy who looks like the head on the [Buffalo] nickel."

Over the next three decades Wilcoxon became first one of DeMille's favorite actors (King Richard the Lionhearted in "The Crusades") and then assistant producer. He often produced and acted in the same films ("The Greatest Show on Earth," "The Ten Commandments," "Samson and Delilah").

He was also the essential Briton in both "Mrs. Miniver" and "The Miniver Story," portrayed Maj. Duncan Heyward in the commercially successful if not artistic "Last of the Mohicans" in 1936 and generally found himself in demand where regally stentorian tones were required.

"I clanked around in armor quite a bit," he recalled in 1976.

His other pictures included "Souls at Sea," "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," "Sunset Boulevard" and "F.I.S.T." in 1978. His lesser roles involved "Tarzan Finds a Son," "Scotland Yard," "The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell" and many more.

Wilcoxon became a naturalized American just before World War II and was among the first Hollywood actors to enlist — he opted for the Navy — after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941.

After the war he returned to the DeMille fold, an alliance he enjoyed. "Contrary to popular conception, DeMille hated yes-men. He always used to say, 'I don't want everyone agreeing with me. I don't want 50 little DeMilles ... It's bad enough to have one.'"

With Gloria Swanson and Evelyn Keyes, Wilcoxon was one of the participants in 1981's centenary tribute to DeMille by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Late in his career, Wilcoxon was the bishop in "Caddyshack" and had several television guest spots, the last in 1983 in "Private Benjamin."

He died of heart failure at age 78 after a lengthy battle with cancer at his Burbank home on March 6, 1984.

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