Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr. was born on December 26, 1903 in San Francisco, California. He grew up in Chicago and started out in vaudeville and stock by the age of fourteen. He was a traveling actor in the East Coast and the Midwest before arriving in New York City, where Eugene O'Neill cast him in his play Ah, Wilderness!, which ran on Broadway for two years.
In 1936, Cook travelled to Hollywood and, after playing a series of college-aged parts, began a long period playing weaklings, sadistic losers and hoods. Cook's characters usually ended up being killed off; he was perhaps Hollywood's most notable fall guy for many years. In Universal's “Phantom Lady” (1944), he portrayed a slimy, intoxicated nightclub-orchestra drummer to memorable effect. He had a substantial uncredited role as Bobo in “I, the Jury” (1953). Other notable roles included Wilmer “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), Marty Waterman in “Born to Kill” (1947), Harry Jones in “The Big Sleep” (1946), "Stonewall" Torrey in “Shane” (1953), and George Peatty in “The Killing” (1956). At the other end of the cinematic spectrum, he appeared in William Castle's horror film House on Haunted Hill (1959) and Rosemary's Baby (1968).
Cook also appeared often on television in such series as ‘The Adventures of Superman’ (1953), ‘The Dennis Day Show’ (1953), ‘Perry Mason’ (1958, 1964), ‘The Real McCoys’ (1960).
Elisha Cook appeared in one Euro-western as the old convict befriended by Jim Brown in “El Condor” (1969). Cook died of a stroke on May 18, 1995 in Big Pine, California. He was 91.
Today we remember Elisha Cook on what would have been his 110th birthday.