Chill Theodore Wills was an American film actor and singer in the Avalon Boys Quartet.
Wills was born in Seagoville in Dallas County, Texas. He was a performer from early childhood, forming and leading the Avalon Boys singing group in the 1930s. After appearing with them in a few westerns, he disbanded the group in 1938 and struck out on a solo acting career.
One of his more memorable roles was that of the distinctive voice of Francis the Mule in a series of popular films. Wills’ deep, rough voice and Western twang were perfectly matched to the personality of the cynical, sardonic mule. As was customary at the time, Wills was given no billing for his vocal work, though he was featured prominently on-screen as blustery General Ben Kaye in the fourth entry, Francis Joins the WACS.
Wills also appeared in numerous serious roles, including that of Uncle Bawley in Giant, a 1956 film starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. Wills was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1960 for his role as Davy Crockett’s companion “Beekeeper” in the film The Alamo. However, his aggressive campaign for the award was considered tasteless by many, including the film’s producer, John Wayne, who publicly apologized for Wills. Wills’ publicity agent, W.S. “Bow-Wow” Wojciechowicz, accepted blame for the ill-advised effort, claiming that Wills had known nothing about it. Wills was defeated for the Oscar by Peter Ustinov, who won for his role as Lentulus Batiatus in Spartacus.