The Avalon Boys

The Avalon Boys


Also Known As
Chill Wills
Birth Place
Seagonville, Texas, USA
July 18, 1902
December 15, 1978
Cause of Death


No classic Western fan could mistake character actor Chill Wills for anyone else. First there was the name, then his unforgettable foghorn bellow of a voice. Starting out as a leader of the singing cowboy group the Avalon Boys Quartet, he appeared with the quartet in a number of oaters in the 1930s, most memorably the Laurel and Hardy Western comedy "Way Out West." When he left the group...

Photos & Videos

The Deadly Companions - Movie Poster
Cattle Drive - Publicity Stills
Cattle Drive - Movie Posters


No classic Western fan could mistake character actor Chill Wills for anyone else. First there was the name, then his unforgettable foghorn bellow of a voice. Starting out as a leader of the singing cowboy group the Avalon Boys Quartet, he appeared with the quartet in a number of oaters in the 1930s, most memorably the Laurel and Hardy Western comedy "Way Out West." When he left the group, he focused solely on working in film, landing bit parts in the shadow of bigger stars like John Wayne in "Allegheny Uprising" and Gary Cooper in "The Westerner." His most notable part was voicing the sardonic Francis the mule in six movies from 1950 to 1955. When not playing the mule, Wills frequently worked with one of the true greats of classic Hollywood, John Wayne, and when Wayne finally saddled into the director's chair to make the 1960 epic "The Alamo," Wills was cast in a juicy role. When award season swung around, Wills mounted a notoriously gauche Oscar campaign after he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, much to the horror of Wayne and almost everyone else in Hollywood. He didn't win, though several comedians (including Groucho Marx) made sure to use Wills as their comedic punching bag. Some of his other memorable parts are in the star-studded "Giant"; the roaring Western comedy "McLintock!," with Wayne and Maureen O'Hara; and as a drunken, sweaty saloon keeper in Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid."



Cast (Feature Film)

That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Mr. Billion (1977)
Guns of a Stranger (1973)
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
The Steagle (1971)
Tall Guy McCoy
The Liberation of L. B. Jones (1970)
Mr. Ike
The Over-the-hill Gang Rides Again (1970)
George Agnew
Big Daddy (1969)
The Over-the-Hill Gang (1969)
Fireball 500 (1966)
Big Jaw Harris
The Rounders (1965)
Jim Editor Love
McLintock! (1963)
The Cardinal (1963)
Monsignor Whittle
Young Guns of Texas (1963)
Sam Shelby
The Wheeler Dealers (1963)
Jay Ray
Gold of the Seven Saints (1961)
Doc Gates
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1961)
Major Buford
The Deadly Companions (1961)
Where the Boys Are (1960)
Police captain
The Alamo (1960)
The Sad Horse (1959)
Captain [Chris] Connors
From Hell to Texas (1958)
Amos Bradley
Gun Glory (1957)
Gun for a Coward (1957)
Santiago (1956)
Capt. "Sidewheel" Jones
Giant (1956)
Uncle Bawley
Kentucky Rifle (1955)
Tobias Taylor
Timberjack (1955)
Steve Riika
Francis in the Navy (1955)
Voice of Francis
Francis Joins the WACS (1954)
General [Ben] Kaye[/Voice of Francis]
Ricochet Romance (1954)
Tom Williams
Hell's Outpost (1954)
Kevin Russel
City That Never Sleeps (1953)
Joe Chicago
Small Town Girl (1953)
The Man from the Alamo (1953)
John Gage
Ride the Man Down (1953)
Ike Adams
Francis Covers the Big Town (1953)
Voice of Francis
Tumbleweed (1953)
Sheriff Murchoree
Bronco Buster (1952)
Dan Bream
Francis Goes to West Point (1952)
Voice of Francis
Cattle Drive (1951)
The Sea Hornet (1951)
Oh! Susanna (1951)
Sgt. Barhydt
Francis Goes to the Races (1951)
Voice of Francis
High Lonesome (1950)
Stella (1950)
Chief Clark
Francis (1950)
Francis' voice
Rio Grande (1950)
Dr. Wilkins
Rock Island Trail (1950)
The Sundowners (1950)
Sam Beard
That Wonderful Urge (1949)
Justice of the peace
Red Canyon (1949)
Family Honeymoon (1949)
Loaded Pistols (1949)
Sheriff Cramer
Tulsa (1949)
Pinky Jimpson and narrator
The Saxon Charm (1948)
Capt. Chatham
The Sainted Sisters (1948)
Will Twitchell
Northwest Stampede (1948)
Heartaches (1947)
Boagey Mann
Gallant Bess (1947)
The Yearling (1947)
Buck Forrester
High Barbaree (1947)
The Harvey Girls (1946)
H. H. Hartsey
Leave Her to Heaven (1946)
Leicke Thorne
What Next, Corporal Hargrove? (1945)
Sergeant Cramp
See Here, Private Hargrove (1944)
First Sergeant Cramp
Rationing (1944)
Bus driver
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Mr. Neely
I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
Sunday Dinner for a Soldier (1944)
Mr. York
Barbary Coast Gent (1944)
Sheriff Hightower
Stand by for Action (1943)
Chief Boatswain's Mate Jenks
Best Foot Forward (1943)
Chester Short
A Stranger in Town (1943)
Charles Craig
Her Cardboard Lover (1942)
Judge [Sam]
Apache Trail (1942)
"Pike" Skelton
The Bugle Sounds (1942)
[Larry] Dillon
Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)
Manchester Mountford
The Omaha Trail (1942)
Henry [Hawkins]
Belle Starr (1941)
Blue Duck
The Bad Man (1941)
"Red" Gidding
Honky Tonk (1941)
The sniper
Billy the Kid (1941)
Tom Patterson
Western Union (1941)
Homer [Kettle]
Boom Town (1940)
Harmony Jones
Tugboat Annie Sails Again (1940)
The Westerner (1940)
Wyoming (1940)
Mehitabel's brother, Lafe
Sky Murder (1940)
Sheriff Beckwith
Sorority House (1939)
Mr. Johnson
Arizona Legion (1939)
Whooper Hatch
Trouble in Sundown (1939)
Timber Stampede (1939)
Whopper Hatch
Racketeers of the Range (1939)
Whopper Hatch
Allegheny Uprising (1939)
Lawless Valley (1938)
Speedy McGow
Way Out West (1937)
Call of the Prairie (1936)

Music (Feature Film)

Hell's Outpost (1954)
Bronco Buster (1952)
High Lonesome (1950)
Leave Her to Heaven (1946)

Cast (Special)

Stubby Pringle's Christmas (1978)
The Stars and Stripes Show (1972)
The Stars and Stripes Show (1971)

Cast (Short)

The Immortal Blacksmith (1944)
Mister Gardenia Jones (1942)
At Sea Ashore (1936)

Life Events


Debuted with his band "Chill Wills and the Avalon Boys"


Released his first album

Photo Collections

The Deadly Companions - Movie Poster
The Deadly Companions - Movie Poster
Cattle Drive - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills from Cattle Drive (1951), starring Joel McCrea, Dean Stockwell and Chill Wills.
Cattle Drive - Movie Posters
Here are a few original movie posters from Cattle Drive (1951), starring Joel McCrea and Dean Stockwell.
Tumbleweed - Movie Poster
Here is a movie poster from Tumbleweed (1953), starring Audie Murphy and Lori Nelson.


Movie Clip

City That Never Sleeps (1953) -- (Movie Clip) I Am The City Opening projecting the extraordinary tone which will permeate the piece, narration by Chill Wills who will appear as a character, introducing the automated Wally Cassell, cynical and bitter Gig Young and Mala Powers, and sparky Bunny Kacher as Agnes, John H. Auer directing from Steve Fisher’s original screenplay, in City That Never Sleeps, 1953.
Boom Town (1940) -- (Movie Clip) You're On My Land! Giant fire at the well appears to parallel raging tensions between partners Big John (Clark Gable) and Square John (Spencer Tracy), in a famous sequence from director Jack Conway's Boom Town, 1940.
Deadly Companions, The (1961) -- (Movie Clip) Hatin' And Wantin' Revenge Complex tension as Billy and Turk (Steve Cochran, Chill Wills) follow maybe-partner "Yellow Leg," (Brian Keith) who's trying to make amends with Kit (Maureen O'Hara), escorting her to a desert town to bury her son, whom he accidentally killed in a gunfight, in Sam Peckinpah's The Deadly Companions, 1961.
Deadly Companions, The (1961) -- (Movie Clip) That's What I Call Pretty In his first feature, presaging things to come, director Sam Peckinpah stages a church service in a saloon, new-in-town "Yellow-Leg" (Brian Keith) and Billy (Steve Cochran) await their third (Chill Wills) as Maureen O'Hara is introduced, mocked by others in Strother Martin's congregation, early in The Deadly Companions, 1961.
Deadly Companions, The (1961) -- (Movie Clip) Five Ace Card Player Strong stuff in director Sam Peckinpah's opening to his first feature, a title song recorded by leading lady Maureen O'Hara, co-written by her brother the producer, then Brian Keith, with Chill Wills and Steve Cochran in post-Civil War Arizona, in The Deadly Companions, 1961.
I'll Be Seeing You (1944) -- (Movie Clip) What The War's Like New friends Zach (Joseph Cotten) and Mary (Ginger Rogers), neither knowing that he's being treated for shell-shock, and she's on furlough from prison, after a war movie, then meeting overzealous host Swanson (Chill Wills), in David Selznick's I'll Be Seeing You, 1944.
Rounders, The (1965) -- (Movie Clip) Nobody Drinks Anymore Central Arizona for north-central New Mexico, aging cowhands Howdy and Ben (Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford) drop in not accidentally on sisters Agatha and Meg (Kathleen and Joan no-relation Freeman) and their moonshiner dad (Edgar Buchanan), in The Rounders, 1965.
Harvey Girls, The (1946) -- (Movie Clip) There's A Lady Singing Proof there are good scenes not featuring Judy Garland, the judge (Preston Foster) enters the Alhambra where Em (Angela Lansbury) offers a Harry Warren-Johnny Mercer tune, and his partner Trent (John Hodiak) opines that the reputable new restaurant is no threat, in The Harvey Girls, 1946.
Harvey Girls, The (1946) -- (Movie Clip) Stick 'Em Up An eternal favorite non-musical scene for Judy Garland enthusiasts, as virtuous Harvey waitress Susan, packing heat as she attacks the decadent Alhambra club to retrieve stolen beef, Angela Lansbury, Chill Wills and others standing back, George Sidney directing, in The Harvey Girls, 1946.
Francis (1950) -- (Movie Clip) Don't Be An Ass Stirling (Donald O'Connor), back on the job at the base in WWII Burma, is pretty well convinced he just had some sort of episode, when he gets a note and rushes off to see the mule (voice of Chill Wills), who talks again, in the first film of seven in the series, Francis, 1950.
Nobody's Baby (1937) -- (Movie Clip) You Put Me On The Radio? Chill Wills sings bass and also seems to lead the Hal Roach group the "Avalon Boys," on air at the radio station where principals Patsy Kelly and Lyda Roberti make noisy entrances and butt heads for the first time, opening the girl-buddy comedy Nobody's Baby, 1937.
Allegheny Uprising (1939) -- (Movie Clip) You Ain't Bad To Look At Serenaded by Chill Wills, top-billed Claire Trevor as Janie spars with dad (Wilfrid Lawson), Jim (John Wayne) and "Professor" (John F. Hamilton), just home from war, when Calhoun (Moroni Olsen) brings news of Indians, in Allegheny Uprising, 1939, released eight months after Stagecoach.