Wallace Maynard Cox was an American comedian and actor, particularly associated with the early years of television in the United States. He appeared in the U.S. TV series Mr. Peepers, plus several other popular shows, and as a character actor in over 20 films. Wally Cox was the voice of the popular animated cartoon character Underdog. Although often cast as a meek milquetoast, he was actually strong and athletic. He married three times and was a close friend of Marlon Brando.
Cox was born in Detroit, Michigan. When he was 10, he moved with his divorced mother, mystery author Eleanor Atkinson, and a younger sister to Evanston, Illinois, where he became close friends with a neighborhood child, Marlon Brando. Cox’s family moved frequently, eventually to Chicago, Illinois, then New York City, then back to Detroit, where he graduated from Denby High School.
During World War II Cox and his family returned to New York City, where he attended City College of New York. He next spent four months in the Army, and on his discharge attended New York University. He supported his invalid mother and sister by making and selling jewelry in a small shop and at parties, where he started doing comedy monologues. These would lead to regular performances at nightclubs such as the Village Vanguard, beginning in December 1948.
He became the roommate of Marlon Brando, who encouraged him to study acting with Stella Adler. Cox and Brando remained close friends for the rest of Cox’s life, and Brando appeared unannounced at Cox’s wake. Brando is also reported to have kept Cox’s ashes in his bedroom and conversed with them nightly.