(April 7, 1918 - January 26, 1957) U.S.A.
William John Joseph Eythe was born in Mars, Pennsylvania, a small town 25 miles outside of Pittsburgh. William was the youngest of three children born to Carl S. Eyth and his wife, Kathryn Walsh, both natives of Pennsylvania. Bill, as he was called by everybody, attended school in Mars and in Baltimore, where the family moved briefly in 1932. By 1934 they were back again in Mars, and Bill completed high school there.
At the age of nine Bill's teacher had selected him to be Peter Rabbit in a school play. Bill did not want to do it at first, but his mother persuaded him to try. Bill later said he only did it to please his mother, but from the moment he stepped on stage he was hooked. Buoyed by his Peter Rabbit experience, he clamored for roles in other plays at school.
After school, Bill and his friends would play at film making in the hills surrounding their homes. Bill would not only act a part, but direct and pretend to be filming with an old shoe box standing in for a camera. One day while filming a western, Bill, climbed a tree to get a better view of the action, clutching his shoe box in one hand and a toy megaphone in the other. Wrecklessly, he jumped from tree to tree, following the action, until he missed his footing and plunged to earth. He spent most of the next seven months in bed with casts on both of his broken legs.
Bill entered Carnegie Tech in 1937 as a drama major. His parents totally supported his decision to pursue a theatrical career. During college days he appeared in more than 80 stage productions, although he confessed later he had more interest in set design, costuming, and directing than acting.
Despite this considerable activity and his love of the theater, Bill seriously considered the possibility of entering a seminary to study for the priesthood, but eventually realized that ecclesiastical life was not for him. While attending Carnegie he worked various jobs. One job was as a guide at the Buhl Planetarium. Although he said he knew little of astronomy, he learned how to memorize a text and found it useful training for an actor. He also worked for a time selling haberdashery in a department store in Pittsburgh.
Bill graduated from Carnegie Tech in early 1941. He then briefly attended the Pittsburgh Art School, having a passing interest in becoming an artist. However, that too gave way to his desire to enter the theater when an opportunity arose for him to sing, dance, and play a part in a revue, Lend An Ear, being showcased at the Pittsburgh Civic Playhouse. It was at this point he added the extra "E" to his surname for theatrical purposes.
Fired up by his appearance in Lend An Ear Bill formed his own acting company, Fox Chapel Productions. The company consisted of mainly Carnegie Tech students. He produced, directed, designed costumes and sets, and also acted the lead in a version of Lilliom, the play better known today as the musical Carousel. However, their plays drew few paying customers and the company soon folded. Bill admitted he had bitten off more than he could chew.
He was given a contract with a stock company based in Cohasset, Massachusetts. During a tour with the play Caprice starring Chatterton, he was seen by a Broadway producer Oscar Serlin who signed him to play a part in the Broadway production of The King's Maid which starred Margo. The play was not a success and closed quickly.
Bill took a job as announcer for a fledgling television station in New York. The engagement was brief because the station closed down after the Day of Infamy, December 7, 1941. Bill died in Los Angeles, California, ofacute hepatitis.
His work include:
- The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
- The Song of Bernadette (1943)
- Wing and a Prayer (1944)
- The Eve of St. Mark (1944)
- Wilson (1944)
- A Royal Scandal (1945)
- Colonel Effingham's Raid (1945)
- The House on 92nd Street (1945)
- Centennial Summer (1946)
- Meet Me at Dawn (1947)
- Mr. Reckless (1948)
- Special Agent (1949)
- Customs Agent (1950)