December 6, 1924– Wallace Maynard Cox:
“The one thing I hate about acting is the loss of privacy, I can be anonymous if I take off my glasses, no one can recognize me. But then I can’t see.”
After Wally Cox was taken by a heart attack in 1973, Marlon Brando kept Cox’s ashes close to him, usually in a drawer at his Mulholland Drive house or under the front seat of his car. This went against the wishes of Cox’s widow, who considered suing Brando for selfishly keeping the ashes. Brando had received them after saying that he would scatter them in the hills where Cox loved to hike. When Brando died in 2004, his family scattered both men’s ashes in Death Valley, where the pair liked to hike and explore.
Brando and Cox were 9-years-old when their parents introduced them. Brando’s mother and Cox’s stepfather were friends in Chicago, where the stepfather worked for NBC. The boys became fast, albeit unlikely, friends.
A few years later, Cox’s family moved to NYC. The Brandos, followed in the 1940s, so that Brando’s sister Jocelyn could studying acting. Cox made jewelry, lugging around his work in a pillowcase to sell at parties. Cox had a little act that he performed at those parties, and people encouraged him to put together a nightclub act. He was a hit in clubs in NYC and Hollywood and performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Cox’s career really took off in 1952, when he starred as the bookish high school science teacher Robinson Peepers in the television series Mr. Peepers, which aired live for three seasons on NBC. A decade later, he was a regular on The Hollywood Squares and the voice for the animated superhero Underdog, who would famously declare:
“There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!”
At the same time, Brando’s career, of course, was hot, hot, hot. He was considered to be America’s finest actor, an actor’s actor. He electrified audience with his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire on stage. He became an icon with The Wild One (1953), and On The Waterfront (1954) brought him his first Academy Award. Although Brando and Cox were often the toast of NYC and Hollywood, the pair always found a way to be back in each other’s company.
Brando was fascinated with how funny Cox was, and Cox was fascinated by how handsome Marlon was; they envied each other for what each didn’t have. They had the same philosophy about fame and publicity. They were part of a new generation of actors who ignored the press and shunned the public. And, they were both extremely intelligent, and Brando and Cox liked to wrestle like kids. They’d do all sort of athletic things together, like swimming, motorcycles, hiking.
Brando could be both a first friend and a moody bully. He was charming, gracious, jealous and exasperating. Brando was temperamental and didn’t hesitate to take it out on everyone else. He was possessive of his friendships and had a reputation for breaking up relationships.
Cox, who married three times, also struggled with Brando’s demanding nature. Brando didn’t want any women to marry his best friend.
At the time of Cox’s death, Brando was at his compound in Tahiti. He rushed back to the USA when word reached him.
Three years after her husband’s death, his widow, actor Patricia Tiernan, read an article about Brando in Time Magazine where he recalled Cox:
“I can’t tell you how much I miss and love that man. I have Wally’s ashes in my house. I talk to him all the time.”
She said that wanted to sue, but the lawyers wouldn’t do it. They laughed.
Brando had affairs with Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Stewart Granger, Montgomery Clift, John Gielgud and James Dean. He turned down Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. But, were Brando and Cox lovers? Brando claimed:
“If Wally had been a woman, I would have married him and we would have lived happily ever after.”
Plus, there is that photograph that surfaces on the Internet from time to time of Brando sucking a large dick, always attributed to being Cox’s cock. Brando had a history of tempestuous relationships, and much has been made of his many liaisons with both women and men. Some friends and family of both men insist Brando’s relationship with Cox was platonic.
“Homosexuality is so much in fashion, it no longer makes news. Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences, and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me.”
Cox was diminutive and diffident, and described himself as “a harmless preoccupied guy in a constant state of reduced effect”. He was especially good at playing the small, inhibited character who fights back at the world.
Cox was a talented writer. His published books include My Life As A Small Boy (1961), Ralph Makes Good (1966) and The Tenth Life Of Osiris Oaks (1972) about a boy and his 2,000‐year‐old cat.
During 110 episodes of Mr. Peepers, Cox charmed audiences playing the shy science teacher with a high-pitched, quavering voice. But, he never really liked doing the show:
“It was during the days of live programming and we had to remember the whole script. It was just too rigid and tense.”
It also bothered him that he would forever be associated with the role:
“I just wish people would forget Mr. Peepers since the shows weren’t recorded they are lost to history anyway.”
Cox also starred in The Adventures Of Hiram Holiday (1956-57), where he played a proofreader at a big city newspaper. It ran for one season on NBC. Then he used his mischievous wit in guest appearances on Hollywood Squares, talk shows, and as the voice of Underdog.
His film credits include: State Fair (1962), Spencer’s Mountain (1963), and The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964).
“Acting is a rather simple thing which does not worry me too much.”
“Wally was my friend. Nobody else’s.”
Marlon and Wally. Wally and Marlon. A handsome, rebellious film icon and his droll, owlish comic bestie. Their bond survived decades, from their boyhoods and even beyond Cox’s unexpected death in February 1973, taken by a massive heart attack. He was just 48-years-old.