William Eythe (April 7, 1918 – January 26, 1957) was an American actor of film, radio, television and stage.
William John Eythe
William John Eythe
April 7, 1918
Mars, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||January 26, 1957 38) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Other names||Will Eythe|
(m. 1947; div. 1949)
Born in Mars, Pennsylvania, a small town located about 25 miles from Pittsburgh, he was interested in acting from a young age. He converted an old barn into a theatre and started performing plays he had written.
He managed a dairy store in his home town for a year and began taking night courses at the Pittsburgh Art Institute. He went to see Burgess Meredith on stage in Winterset and Meredith advised him to study at Carnegie Tech University. At Carnegie, Eythe appeared in over 80 plays.
Eythe appeared in and produced Lend an Ear for the Pittsburgh Civic Playhouse. He also acted in that play in Cohassett, Massachusetts with Sheila Barrett. He formed the Fox Chapel Players in Pittsburgh, a stock company composed mostly of former Carnegie students; it lasted one production of Lilliom.
In June 1941 Eythe joined his first professional stock company, in Cohassett, appearing alongside such names as Ruth Chatterton, Nancy Carroll and George Nagel. He was seen in a production of Ladies in Retirement by a talent scout from 20th Century Fox who offered a screen test. Eythe turned it down, saying he was not ready.
Eythe had a role on Broadway in The Moon is Down (1942) by John Steinbeck. During try-outs in Baltimore, Eythe was hit on the head doing a scene, injuring his hearing. This meant he would be unfit for medical service. During the Second World War, many of Hollywood's young male stars were away at war, and the film studios were forced to locate newer, younger actors who were below the age of military service, or those actors who were considered unfit for service due to medical conditions. As one such actor, Eythe was spotted by a talent scout for 20th Century Fox films.
20th Century Fox
Eythe was promoted to leading roles with The Eve of St. Mark (1944), opposite Anne Baxter, from a play by Maxwell Anderson. He played the juvenile lead in Wilson (1944), Fox's prestige picture of the year; it was a box office disappointment but Eythe's casting in the movie indicated the regard with which he was held at the studio.
Eythe was one of the three leads in a war film, Wing and a Prayer (1944), directed by Henry Hathaway, alongside Don Ameche and Dana Andrews. Eythe replaced Randolph Scott. He was to have appeared in Sunday Dinner for a Soldier but ended up being replaced by John Hodiak.
Eythe was then given the lead role in The House on 92nd Street (1945) playing double-agent Bill Dietrich (based on William G. Sebold). This was a semi-documentary directed by Henry Hathaway and was a big hit. He was announced for Doll Face with Vivian Blaine and a musical remake of The Bowery but neither were made.
Eythe was the romantic male lead in Colonel Effingham's Raid (1946), starring Coburn. He was billed fourth in Centennial Summer (1946), a musical directed by Preminger featuring Jeanne Crain, Cornel Wilde and Linda Darnell.
In 1946 he was one of eight Hollywood actors to give a performance in front of King George VI and his wife.
Fox then released him from his contract.
Eythe directed and appeared in a stage production of The Glass Menagerie.
Return to Broadway
Eythe returned to New York. He turned producer, buying the rights to the revue Lend an Ear and much revising it. It debuted in New York in 1948, the cast including Eythe and a young Carol Channing. It ran for 460 performances until 1950.
During the show run he began appearing in TV in episodes of The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse ("Dinner at Antoine's", "This Time, Next Year", an adaptation of "The Little Sister", "The Promise"). He announced he had bought the rights to the novel The Perfect Round by Henry Morton Robinson and wanted to turn it into a play.
In 1950 he appeared in the musical The Liar, directed by Alfred Drake, which only had a short run.
Eythe also appeared in a starring (though non-singing) role in the 1950 Cole Porter musical Out of this World, based on the Greek myth of Amphitryon, in which Jupiter (George Gaynes) comes to earth to bed a lovely young lady, taking the shape of her much-loved husband (Eythe). The song "From This Moment On," which went on to become a standard, was originally written for the couple.
Eythe then focused on television. He was in episodes of Faith Baldwin Romance Theatre ("Follow Fat Flora"), Studio One in Hollywood ("Summer Had Better Be Good"), Armstrong Circle Theatre ("Fog Station"), Lux Video Theatre ("Dames are Poison"), Tales of Tomorrow ("The Invader", with Eva Gabor), Lights Out ("Sisters of Shadow", "Perchance to Dream"), Schlitz Playhouse ("The Haunted House"), and Hollywood Opening Night ("The Singing Years"). His last screen appearance was in The Ford Television Theatre ("Indirect Approach").
Eythe was linked with many of the female stars in Hollywood of the time, such as Anne Baxter, June Haver, Margaret Whiting and others, but in actuality Eythe was homosexual. Eythe was involved in a relationship with Lon McCallister, a young screen actor.
Eythe quickly married a young 20th Century Fox contract actress, Buff Cobb, in June 1947. The marriage was short-lived and was not a happy one, and the couple would divorce in 1949. Cobb would later sue Eythe for $2,500 owing under the settlement. It resulted in Eythe being arrested. "I suppose I do owe the money," he said. "I'm a bum book-keeper and a bum businessman."
Eythe was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles in January 1957 suffering from hepatitis. He died several weeks later at the age of 38. Carol Channing described McCallister as Eythe's "dearest friend".
- The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) - Gerald Tetley
- The Song of Bernadette (1943) - Antoine Nicolau
- The Eve of St. Mark (1944) - Pvt. Quizz West
- Wilson (1944) - George Felton
- Wing and a Prayer (1944) - Ens. Hallam 'Oscar' Scott
- A Royal Scandal (1945) - Lt. Alexei Chernoff
- The House on 92nd Street (1945) - Bill Dietrich
- Colonel Effingham's Raid (1946) - Albert 'Al' Marbury
- Centennial Summer (1946) - Ben Phelps
- Meet Me at Dawn (1947) - Charles Morton
- Mr. Reckless (1948) - Jeff Lundy0
- Special Agent (1949) - Johnny Douglas
- Customs Agent (1950) - Bert Stewart
- William Eythe, actor and producer, dies. (January 27, 1957). Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/167027374
- WILLIAM EYTHE, 38, OF MOVIES IS DEAD. (January 27, 1957). New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/113935937
- BILL EYTHE'S TRIUMPH OVER PAIN. (April 1, 1945). New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/107323564
- Schallert, E. (August 19, 1943). SCREEN AND STAGE. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/165439939
- Schallert, E. (November 17, 1943). SCREEN AND STAGE. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/165469686
- Special to The New York Times. (November 24, 1943). SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD. New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/106672767
- Special to The New York Times. (April 20, 1944). SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD. New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/106879983
- Special to The New York Times. (July 9, 1945). EYTHE GETS LEAD IN 'DOLL FACE' FILM. New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/107127811
- Special to The New York Times. (February 7, 1945). NEWS OF THE SCREEN. New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/107345855
- Eythe tells about his new revue. (June 13, 1948). Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/165824045
- By J.P. SHANLEY. (December 16, 1948). GAYNOR MUSICAL ARRIVES TONIGHT. New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/108362557
- By A.H. WEILER. (January 9, 1949). BY WAY OF REPORT. New York Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/105817637
- Schallert, E. (November 18, 1949). Marjorie Reynolds does suspect in Eythe film; 'men' in title conflict. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/165991086
- Tudor, R. ( November 19, 1953). IMPROVED CAST SPARKS PLAY AT SHOWCASE. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/178572388
- Mann, William (2001). Behind the screen: how gays and lesbians shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-03017-1.
- Actor William Eythe marries Buff Cobb. (June 3, 1947). Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/165756999
- WILLIAM EYTHE SEIZED; EX-WIFE WANTS $2,500. (September 4, 1950). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/177999341
- Obituary Variety, January 30, 1957, page 63.
- Wm. Eythe, producer, actor, dies. (January 28, 1957). The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954–1959) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/148963870