Will Wright (1894-1962) was an extremely recognizable character actor of the ’40s and ’50s, whose roles ranged from bit parts to larger supporting parts. Normally he was cast as judgmental characters, Yankee storekeeps, stingy customers, small town lawmen, and judges. He was in movies of all genres, in particular comedies and westerns.
Originally from San Francisco, Wright started as a newspaperman. His first stage experience was in vaudeville and with stock companies. For a time he was based in New York, which is where he was in a Vitaphone short starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy called Pure Feud (1934), as well as radio shows like The Jack Benny Program and My Little Margie. In 1940, he went to Hollywood, where accumulated over 200 screen credits over the next 22 years. One of his best roles was off-camera: he supplied the voice of Friend Owl in Walt Disney’s Bambi (1942). His other credits included Blondie Plays Cupid (1940), Maisie Was a Lady (1941), Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942), State Fair (1945), Hope and Crosby’s Road to Utopia (1945), The Blue Dahlia (1946), Mother Wore Tights (1947), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), Little Women (1949), Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949), All the King’s Men (1949), Adam’s Rib (1949), The Wild One (1953), Niagara (1953), River of No Return (1954), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Kentuckian (1955), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), Johnny Tremain (1957), Rock-a-bye Baby (1958) with Jerry Lewis, Alias Jesse James (1959) with Bob Hope, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959) with Lou Costello, Inherit the Wind (1960), and Cape Fear (1962). In his last years he also worked constantly in television. Some of his last credits were on shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Maverick, and Bonanza.
To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.