Dick Wessel

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Dick Wessel
Dick Wessel in Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946).png
Wessel in Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946)
Richard Michael Wessel[citation needed]

(1913-04-20)April 20, 1913
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedApril 20, 1965(1965-04-20) (aged 52)
Years active1935–1965

Richard Michael Wessel (April 20, 1913 – April 20, 1965)[1] was an American film actor who appeared in more than 270 films between 1935 and 1966. He is best remembered for his only leading role, a chilling portrayal of strangler Harry "Cueball" Lake in Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946), and for his appearances as comic villains opposite The Three Stooges.


Wessel was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[1] His burly frame established him as a character player in feature films of the 1930s and '40s. At first he was a bit player; in Laurel and Hardy's Bonnie Scotland (1935), he was a blacksmith's assistant (with no dialogue). Gradually his roles became larger and he was given a few lines of dialogue, as in Yankee Doodle Dandy where he played a veteran soldier. His first featured roles came in 1941, for comedy producer Hal Roach.

In 1946 Dick Wessel began working in Columbia Pictures' two-reel comedies, often with writer-director Edward Bernds. Wessel became one of Bernds's favorites, and Bernds wrote his scripts with parts for Wessel in mind. Wessel became a fixture in Columbia shorts, as a comic foil for The Three Stooges, Andy Clyde, Hugh Herbert, Gus Schilling and Richard Lane, Sterling Holloway, Harry Von Zell, Billie Burke, and Eddie Foy, Jr. When character actor Eddie Acuff left the Blondie series, Bernds hired Dick Wessel to replace him as the hapless mailman perennially flattened by Dagwood Bumstead in his rush-hour run for the bus. In 1955 director Bernds remembered Wessel and wrote him into the Bowery Boys comedy Bowery to Bagdad.

Wessel continued to play character roles in feature films. In 1946 he landed his only leading role, as a villain opposite Morgan Conway's portrayal of Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy vs. Cueball casts Wessel as Cueball, ex-convict with shaven head, who steals valuable jewels and murders anyone in his way while he tries to reclaim them. Wessel is Mr Cracker, the affable bartender serving James Stewart in Harvey, 1950). In Frank Capra's comedy Pocketful of Miracles, based on a Damon Runyon story, he's a New York mug masquerading as the governor of Florida.

Wessel also appeared on television. From 1959 to 1961, Wessel co-starred as Carney Kohler in all forty-two episodes of the NBC western television series Riverboat.[2] In 1959, he appeared as police captain Bob Rattigan in the episode "Rattigan and the Cat" of the syndicated Border Patrol series. He also appeared in the syndicated crime drama Sheriff of Cochise. He was cast as Charlie in the episode "A Kind of a Stopwatch" of CBS's The Twilight Zone. He also guest starred in the CBS sitcom/drama Hennesey and on the ABC sitcom, Our Man Higgins. In 1961 he guest-starred in the series finale of The Investigators.

Wessel and his wife, Louise, had a daughter.[1] He died of a heart attack at his home in Studio City, California on his 52nd birthday.[3]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Dick Wessel is Dead at 52; Movie and Television Actor". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 23, 1965. p. 35. Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  2. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 897. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  3. ^ "Services Set for Actor Dick Wessel". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. April 22, 1965. p. 46. Retrieved September 22, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.

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