Dick Wessel



  • Date of Birth: 20 April 1913
  • Place Of Birth:  Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


Rough-and-tumble American actor Dick Wessel had a fierce-looking scowl on a bulldog of a mug. That, coupled with a thick build and imposing stance, earned him appearances in countless Warner Bros. comedies and hard-boiled crime dramas throughout the late 1930s and 1940s. Although he made hundreds of films, he had few chances to show off, appearing uncredited in over half of them and in minor, fleeting roles when he did receive billing. He had roles in such “A” pictures as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and Strangers on a Train (1951), but his visibility in them was practically nil. Born Richard M. Wessel in Wisconsin in 1913, the husky-framed character began his career on stage before starting in films in the mid-’30s. Getting unbilled extra roles at first, he appeared on both sides of the moral fence over the years, playing as many brutish gangsters, henchmen and convicts as he did rough-hewn cops or streetwise characters (cabbies, mailmen, bartenders, boxers, etc.) The tough-sounding names of his characters, such as “Monk,” “Beans,” “Moxie” and “Chopper Kane”, pretty much said it all. His best showcase–and it should have worked out better for him–was menacing, bald-pated arch-villain Harry “Cueball” Lake in Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946). Here he was finally given a chance to shine but it did not lead to meatier roles. He became a stock player for Columbia and their assembly-line of short comedy subjects, essaying a slew of burglars, thieves, wrestlers, circus strongmen and lummox husbands for The Three Stooges, Andy Clyde and others. On TV he was a rugged presence on such western series as Gunsmoke (1955), Laramie (1959), Rawhide (1959) and Bonanza (1959). Close to the end of his life and career he had a regular part as a crew member on the adventure series Riverboat (1959) with Darren McGavin. Dick’s final role was released posthumously, playing a bit as a frantic garbage man in The Ugly Dachshund (1966). He had died a year earlier at his Hollywood home of a heart attack on his 52nd birthday. His wife and a daughter survived him.