William Bendix was an American film, radio, and television actor, best remembered in movies for the title role in the movie The Babe Ruth Story and for portraying clumsily earnest aircraft plant worker Chester A. Riley in radio and television’s The Life of Riley. He also received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for Wake Island. Bendix, named for his paternal grandfather, was born in Manhattan, New York City, the only son of Oscar Bendix and Hilda Bendix. As a youth in the early 1920s, Bendix was a batboy for the New York Yankees and said he saw Babe Ruth hit more than a hundred home runs at Yankee Stadium. In 1927, he married Theresa Stefanotti. Bendix worked as a grocer until the Great Depression.
Bendix began his acting career at age 30, by way of the New Jersey Federal Theater Project, and made his film debut in 1942. He played in supporting roles in dozens of Hollywood films, usually as a warm-hearted Marine, gangster or detective. He started with appearances in film noir films including a memorable performance in The Glass Key, which also featured Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. He soon gained more attention after appearing in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat as Gus, a wounded and dying American sailor.
Bendix’s other well-known movie roles include his portrayal of baseball player Babe Ruth in The Babe Ruth Story and Sir Sagramore opposite Bing Crosby in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in which he took part in the famous trio, “Busy Doing Nothing”. He also played Nick the bartender in the 1948 film version of William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life starring James Cagney. Bendix had also appeared in the stage version, but in the role of Officer Krupp. In 1946 he was cast in The Blue Dahlia for the second time alongside Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.