Mild-mannered Wally Cox was perfect for Mister Peepers, Underdog and many other roles. Wallace Maynard Cox was born in 1924 and died in 1973.
Cox had that slight physique and bookish appearance, the classic 97 pound weakling. But he wasn’t. Wiry and deceptively strong, he was known for winning wrestling matches against his friend Marlon Brando.
Cox and Brando were friends since childhood and were very close until Cox’s death. In fact, Brando was entrusted with Cox’s ashes and held onto them for years, even after assuring Cox’s widow that he would scatter them in the desert. Brando even had Cox’s ashes when he himself passed away and was cremated. The ashes of both were scattered in the desert.
Cox was only 48 when he suffered a massive heart attack. At the time, he was a regular on Hollywood Squares, a great vehicle for Cox, Charlie Weaver, Paul Lynde, Rose Marie and other colorful personalities. Cox was known to come up with his own responses.
Cox started out selling jewelry he made at parties. He had a knack for improv and making people laugh and was convinced by Brando to give entertainment a shot. He studied acting with Stella Alder, like many up and coming actors. This lead to guest starring bits and television characters like Mister Peepers in the 1950s.
Who can forget his voicing of Underdog?He had such a distinctive voice as Shoeshine Boy and Underdog. Beginning in 1964 and airing till 1973, 124 episodes were produced.
The cartoon’s animation was fairly basic even by standards then. Each half-hour episode had an Underdog cartoon which ended with a cliffhanger, to be resolved during a segment at the end of the episode. In between, would be two short features unrelated to Underdog. These recurring features would be The Adventures of Commander McBragg,” “Klondike Kat,” “Tennessee Tuxedo” or another cartoon character.
Cox appeared in films and television series until his death. Although he was hired for many milquetoast roles, he often played against type as the playboy or lady’s man. He had parts in numerous dramatic roles including the sonar operator in The Bedford Incident, starring Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark. He was part of the cast for Marilyn Monroe’s last film role.