William Phipps (actor)
Promotional headshot, 1951
|Born||William Edward Phipps
February 4, 1922
Vincennes, Indiana, U.S.
|Alma mater||Eastern Illinois University|
|Occupation||Actor, film producer|
William Edward "Bill" Phipps (born February 4, 1922) is a retired American actor and producer, perhaps best known for his roles in dozens of classic sci-fi and westerns, both in films and on television.
Phipps grew up in St. Francisville in Lawrence County in southeastern Illinois. By the time he was in high school, Phipps he was using his stepfather's last name of Couch. He developed a love of acting at a young age and performed in several plays in grade school and high school. One of the plays in which he performed, during his junior year of high school in 1937, was Before Morning, a 1933 play made into a film that same year.
After graduating from high school in 1939, he attended Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, where he majored in accounting, was elected freshman class president, and served as head cheerleader. After two years of college, he moved to Hollywood, to pursue a career in acting and resumed his original last name of Phipps.
World War II
During that same year, the United States entered into World War II, and Phipps enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as a radio operator on several ships all across the Pacific. He served three years, then settled in Los Angeles to begin his career. He enrolled in the Actors' Lab in Hollywood, alongside fellow actor Russell Johnson.
Phipps' big break came when he and Johnson were double-cast in a play at the Actors Lab. They drew straws to see which actor would perform in the matinée, and which would take the evening show. Phipps drew the evening show, which was attended that same evening by actor Charles Laughton. Laughton was impressed by Phipps' performance, and came backstage afterwards to ask Phipps to perform in Laughton's own play. Phipps' career took off, and he was soon in his first feature film, Crossfire (1947).
Phipps played the gunfighter Curly Bill Brocius in sixteen episodes from 1956 to 1961 of the ABC/Desilu western television series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, with Hugh O'Brian in the role of frontier deputy marshal Wyatt Earp. One of the episodes, "Let's Hang Curly Bill", is the story of an older marshal, Fred White (Sam Flint), who is mortally wounded when he takes the gun from a drunken Curly Bill, who is celebrating his birthday in a saloon in Tombstone, Arizona. A town mob demands that Curly Bill be hanged, but Earp puts dynamite under the main street to protect his prisoner until the trial. Earp must defend Curly Bill in court because it was White who accidentally caused Curly Bill's gun to discharge; White signed a statement prior to his death attesting to the circumstances of the tragic shooting.
Career break to Hawaii
After nearly thirty years in the business, performing in film and television in a wide variety of roles, Phipps took a break from Hollywood and moved to Hawaii. While there, he hosted a movie presentation program called "Hollywood Oldies", on Maui's Cable 7.
After a little more than five years in Hawaii, he returned to Hollywood to portray President Theodore Roosevelt in the 1976 television movie Eleanor and Franklin. He also was a regular member of the cast of the short-lived CBS western television series Sara that year.
Phipps' career highlights include the speaking voice of Prince Charming in Disney's Cinderella (1950), the post-apocalyptic Five (1951) (his only leading role), The War of the Worlds (1953), narrating the television version of Dune (1984), and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993).
Retirement and post-career
Phipps' last movie role to date was in the 2000 independent film Sordid Lives, in which he also served as one of the film's producers. In 2005, several of Phipps' films were the subject of an EIU film festival in his honor. He received an honorary doctorate from the university the following year.
- They Live by Night (1948)
- ""Let's Hang Curly Bill" (January 26, 1960)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 20, 2014.