If you’re my age or younger, the odds are quite good that your entire experience of Billy DeWolfe has been his voice-over as Professor Hinkle, the evil magician in the animated holiday classic Frosty the Snow Man. But the consummate professional had been in show business (stage, film and television) for decades before that.
Born William Jones in Quincy, Mass this day in 1907, DeWolfe’s childhood was about evenly divided between the U.S. and his parents’ native Wales. He started out in small time vaudeville with a dance act and towards the latter half of the ’30s found himself performing in London revues. He did a brief stint in WWII but it didn’t prevent him from becoming a familiar face in nightclubs, films, radio and Broadway. When television came in, he was a frequent guest on Ed Sullivan and the Tonight Show. He played Marlo Thomas’s acting teacher on That Girl! His last steady gig was a regular on The Doris Day Show (1970-73 — he’d performed with her on radio and in films for years), and he was even a voice in Free to Be You and Me. He died in 1974. Oh, and this is what he really looked like:
To find out more about the history of vaudeville and vaud veterans like Billy DeWolfe, please consult my critically acclaimed book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous