Wally Cox

Today’s Zippy, about a figure from American pop culture (and also about masculinity and male friendship):

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From Wikipedia:

Wallace Maynard “Wally” Cox (December 6, 1924 – February 15, 1973) was an American comedian and actor, particularly associated with the early years of television in the United States. He appeared in the U.S. television series Mister Peepers from 1952 to 1955 [as high-school science teacher Robinson Peepers], plus several other popular shows, and as a character actor in over 20 films [and a panelist on Hollywood Squares]. Cox was the voice of the popular animated canine superhero Underdog. Although often cast as a meek milquetoast, he was actually quite athletic, as well as a military veteran. He married three times.

Cox in a screen shot from Mister Peepers:

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Cox was mightily unhappy about being typecast as meek and prim, by being unmanned by the role he ended up playing for most of his life.

More from Wikipedia:

His close friendship with Marlon Brando was the subject of rumors. Brando told a journalist: “If Wally had been a woman, I would have married him and we would have lived happily ever after”, and writer/editor Beauregard Houston-Montgomery has stated that while high on marijuana Brando confessed to him that Cox had been the love of his life. However, two of Cox’s wives dismissed the suggestion that the love was more than platonic.

A classic bromance, which went back to before Brando became famous (and famous as an intensely physical, strongly masculine actor). The men were almost exactly the same age (though Cox died young, about 30 years before Brando). Their close friendship included a far amount of horseplay and close physical contact, as many bromances do; it’s a guy thing. Here’s a young Cox carrying a young Brando on a beach:

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Behavior like this — in combination with Cox’s rather prissy Mister Peepers character, a widespread belief that nerdiness correlates with queerness, and a widespread belief  that close friendships necessarily have a component of sexual attraction (an idea that surely has its roots in beliefs about close friendships between men and women) — no doubt gave rise to the silly rumors about Cox’s (and Brando’s) sexuality.

I watched Mister Peepers in high school, with some annoyance at the wimpiness of the science teacher character (since I saw teaching science or mathematics as a likely future for myself). As for Underdog, I just adored it, and then had the pleasure of enjoying it afresh with my grand-daughter (posting here).

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