Actor. He is best remembered as a character actor who played mostly villains in western and gangster films. His most distinguishing physical quality was that his left eye iris was skewed to the outside (as the result of an eye injury), making him look unnaturally "wide eyed." Born William Scott Elam, his birth and death records indicate his birth year as 1920. His mother died when he was almost four-years-old and he was raised by relatives in environments less than ideal. Growing up, he picked cotton around his home. As a Boy Scout, he lost the sight in his left eye when another Scout threw a pencil at him in a troop meeting. He attended Miami High School in Gila County, Arizona and Phoenix Union High School in Maricopa County, Arizona, the latter from which he graduated in the late 1930s. He attended Santa Monica Junior College in California and became an accountant for Standard Oil Company and as a bookkeeper for MGM mogul Samuel Goldwyn in Hollywood, California. Prior to becoming an actor he also managed the Hollywood Boulevard Theater and the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles, California. In 1949 he made his film debut in "She Shoulda Said No!" (or "Wild Weed"). In 1963 he played the part of Deputy Marshall J.D. Smith in the television western "The Dakotas" which ran for only nineteen episodes. He played perhaps his shortest role as a gunslinger in "Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He had his first comic role in "Support Your Local Sheriff" (1969) and played an eccentric sidekick to John Wayne in "Rio Lobo" (1970). From that point on his film roles as villains dwindled and his comic roles increased. During his film career he appeared in over 50 movies as well as a number of television roles, like "Bonanza," the television movie "The Over-the-Hill Gang," and the mini-series "How the West Was Won." He also co-starred in the television sitcom "Easy Street" which aired on NBC during the 1986-1987 television season. In 1994 he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. He died of congestive heart failure at the age of 82.
Bio by: William Bjornstad