For over five decades veteran character actor Dave Willock could be spotted as your friendly neighbor, buddy or unassuming blue-collar in hundreds of assorted films–both comedy and drama. Tall and lanky marked with a slightly long, gaunt puss, flat vocal pattern and jug-like ears, he was for the most part an amiable guy who blended in unobtrusively as a benign servile — cabbie, clerk, usher, soda jerk, photographer, messenger boy, bellhop, etc. Decades later he was handed minor but steady work via Jerry Lewis, Robert Aldrich and Walt Disney.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on August 13, 1909 to non-professionals, Dave began his career in theater and drama while a student at the University of Wisconsin. Following college studies, he entered vaudeville as part of the comedy team of “Willock & Carson,” an act he put together with future actor Jack Carson. From vaudeville he and Carson transitioned into radio, appearing first on Bing Crosby’s “Kraft Music Hall” in 1938. Carson became the bigger star of the two and when he received his own show (“The Jack Carson Show”) he utilized his old friend and partner’s talents in a second-banana position playing Carson’s smart-mouthed nephew Tugwell.
On his own, Dave made his film debut in a student bit in Good Girls Go to Paris (1939) and remained in the overlooked, often unbilled category throughout the war years. His small but amiable bits included various army buddies, benign suitors and dependable sidekicks. Some of his more visible featured roles came in war-era musicals and comedies such as Priorities on Parade (1942), Lucky Jordan (1942), Let’s Face It (1943), The Gang’s All Here (1943)- Pin Up Girl (1944), She’s a Sweetheart (1944) and Joe Palooka, Champ (1946), but nothing he was seen in was big enough to maneuver him into the top character ranks. He was seen to better advantage with the coming of TV, where he dotted a number of comedies, dramas and sitcom series.
A perennial support player, he appeared in a number of cult sci-fi classics of the 1950s including It Came from Outer Space (1953), Revenge of the Creature (1955) and Queen of Outer Space (1958). In later years he served as a minor foil for Jerry Lewis when the comedian went solo in such film vehicles as The Delicate Delinquent (1957), The Geisha Boy (1958), The Ladies Man (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Patsy (1964) and The Disorderly Orderly (1964). Dave was a utility player as well for director Robert Aldrich in such films as Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), The Grissom Gang (1971), and Emperor of the North (1973), with his most famous Aldrich role being that of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s vaudeville father in the classic grand guignol shocker What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Disney kept him fairly busy in their TV and film features from the late 1950s into the 1970s, and he was a favorite casting choice of Jack Webb for Dragnet and Adam-12 (where he’d appear as a good-natured barfly or a pharmacist). Willock was also heard but not seen in animated cartoons, notably as the narrator of the Wacky Races (1968) kiddie cartoon.
Retired by the late 1970s, Dave passed away on November 12, 1990 of complications from a stroke in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 81.