Netflix And Chill Wills

Actually, there’s no need to “Netflix and chill” when a Chill Wills flick is on the tube. It demands your full attention. The colorful, guitar-strumming character actor above was a 43-year film veteran, whose career was defined by numerous cowboy roles, including Giant, The Alamo, and McClintock!

Chill Theodore Wills was born on a hot July day in 1902 in Seagoville, Texas. A musician from his youth, he performed from the age of 12 with tent shows, in vaudeville, and with stock companies.

He formed a musical group, Chill Wills and His Avalon Boys. During an appearance at the Trocadero in Hollywood, they were spotted by an RKO executive, who featured them as a group in several low-budget Westerns. His first movie, It’s a Gift came out in 1934, and led to a prominent appearance with both The Avalon Boys and as the bass-singing voice of Stan Laurel in Way Out West (1937). Soon after, Wills disbanded the group and began his solo film career.

One of his more memorable roles was that of the distinctive voice of Francis the Mule in a series of popular films. Wills’ deep voice and Texas drawl were suited to the personality of the cynical mule.

While performing in vaudeville in Kansas City, Wills married ballet dancer Hattie Elizabeth Chappelle, with whom he had two children, Jill Wills (born 1939) and Will Wills (born 1942). Jill and Will Wills, you guys.

One of his best-received performances was in John Wayne’s The Alamo, an epic about Davy Crockett and the historic Texas battle against Mexican troops. Playing Beekeeper, one of Crockett’s fellow Tennesseans, Wills received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, an ad that appeared in Variety stated that the cast of The Alamo was praying harder for Chill Wills to win than the defenders of the Alamo prayed for their lives before the actual battle.

The ad left such a bad taste in Wayne’s mouth that he felt compelled to issue a public apology. Another ad that quoted Wills as saying “Win, lose or draw, you’re all my cousins and I love you” evoked this response from Academy member Groucho Marx: “Dear Mr. Chill Wills, I am delighted to be your cousin but I voted for Sal Mineo.” Ouch!

Ultimately, Wills’ fabulously-named publicity agent, W.S. “Bow-Wow” Wojciechowicz, accepted blame for the tasteless effort, claiming that Wills had known nothing about it. The Oscar was instead won by Peter Ustinov for his role in Spartacus.

Wills enjoyed poker and consequently befriended Benny Binion (below right), the founder of the World Series of Poker and former owner of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Don’t they look happier than a pig in slop?

Wills’ wife died in 1971, and he remarried…wait for it…Novadeen Googe, in 1973. He continued to work in films and television up until his death in 1978.

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32 Responses to Netflix And Chill Wills

  1. Benson says:

    I always enjoyed Mr. Wills’ movies and loved his voice. Were he alive today he would make a killing doing voices in animated movies. Speaking of names. I had a very eccentric Great Aunt who had at least 5 husbands. At different times. One was a Japanese national named Chili Zero. True story.

    • kerbey says:

      Shut. Up. No way. Do you have a pic with them in it? She didn’t kill them all off, right?

      • Benson says:

        No, no pictures, just stories from my Aunt and Mom. As I understand it Chili was deported, this was just prior to the start of the war. I think she divorced 3 of them. I only remember Uncle Phil. They lived in Chicago. Whenever they visited he gave all of us kids silver dollars.Now he did die under suspicious circumstances,but she was never considered a suspect.

        • kerbey says:

          This also needs to become a novel. It begins with you flipping the silver dollar in your hands. BTW, last night, watching “Family Feud” (my son is going thru a phase), the question was what spices do strippers name themselves? Of course there was cinnamon and sugar, but the final answer was Chili. Weird, right?

          • Benson says:

            Not so weird. I think that is a perfectly fine name for a dancer. Actually I have a story about a joint in Arizona ,but some other time.

  2. Dave says:

    Happier than a pig in slop, no doubt!!!!

    Did you ever hear the weird story about Ted Binion’s death… not Benny, but definitely fascinating and Binion-related.

    Kerbey, you are my hero, btw. For more reasons than one!

    NOVADEEN GOOGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is the best name I’ve seen on this blog in a long time.

  3. I love this post. What a treasure trove of names. And who wouldn’t want to chill with Chill Wills. Now I have to find some Francis movies for the weekend. 🙂

  4. ksbeth says:

    the whole family was known for their one-syllable rhyming skills.

  5. Dave says:

    Why is Ryan Gosling always so cool?!?! I wish I had that skill!

  6. wdydfae says:

    “. . . move ’em on, head ’em up, head ’em up, move ’em on, move ’em on, head ’em up . . .”

    “. . . cut ’em out, ride ’em in, ride ’em in, let ’em out, cut ’em out, ride ’em in . . .”

    “. . . Kerbey ropes and throws and brands that thar little doggie with some Grade-A Western gumption . . .”

    “. . . Kerbey demonstrates her versatility once again, playing both kinds of music: Country AND Western . . .”

  7. I watched Giant two days ago. I think I’ve seen that movie more than any other.

  8. Arto says:

    How did I miss this last week? Leap week throwing me for a loopy-doop.

    Chill was pretty chill. I think I’d marry Novadeen Googe too just to be Mr. Googe. That’s spectacular.

    W.S. “Bow-Wow” Wojciechowicz should be an entry of his own, but that would mean one of us would need to be able to spell his name in the title. Tall order.

    • kerbey says:

      I’m telling you, Arto, I can’t get my jaw around that last name. I just keep thinking Steve Wozniak, and that’s not even close. I seriously wonder if there ever was another Novadeen. If I were a blues artist down on the bayou, I’d surely name my guitar Novadeen.

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