Family & Companions
The life of Henry Wilcoxon was as epic as his adventures onscreen. His mother died when he was 11 months old; his father shipped him to England, where the young Wilcoxon became the ward of neglectful foster parents. He languished away in the attic, afflicted by rickets and lice. Fortunately, he was athletic and resilient; he took up boxing and then became an actor. He played Captain Cook on the London stage and finally found his way to Hollywood. Cecil B. DeMille heard the actor's sonorous accent in a screen test and promptly made him Marc Anthony to Claudette Colbert's Cleopatra. His second film with DeMille was a flop, relegating the actor to the backwater Republic Pictures, but Wilcoxon helped pen a patriotic speech for his role as the chaste vicar in "Mrs. Miniver"; it was so moving that President Roosevelt used it as propaganda. After a stint in the Coast Guard during World War II, Wilcoxon appeared with Bing Crosby in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" and made more pictures with DeMille: "Unconquered" and "Samson and Delilah." He also produced the Academy Award-winning "The Greatest Show on Earth" as well as "The Ten Commandments." After the director's death, in 1959, Wilcoxon appeared mostly on TV, though he had roles in the swashbuckler "The War Lord" and the legendary Rodney Dangerfield comedy "Caddyshack," where he spoofed his old vicar.