William Phipps – a character actor most famous his work in various westerns and science-fiction films, and for lending his voice to Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s Cinderella – has passed away at the age of 96, as reported by Variety. While no official cause of death has been announced at this time, entertainment industry author Tom Weaver – a friend of Phipps – confirmed that the actor had been battling lung cancer, which had been recently complicated by pneumonia.
Born in Vincennes, Indiana, Phipps had originally planned to study accounting while pursuing an acting career on the side. Eventually he changed his mind and moved to California, but he put his dreams of silver-screen stardom on hold to enlist in the US Navy in 1942. Phipps served as a radioman on-board six ships over the next three years, using the GI Bill to enroll at The Actors lab after his discharge.
In 1947, Phipps became a contract player with RKO and made his screen debut in the film noir thriller Crossfire. This led to his being cast in a number of RKO’s westerns and Phipps’ audition for the role of Prince Charming. Reportedly Phipps was paid only $100 for two hours of work, after his voice was chosen by Walt Disney himself! That might not sound lot a of money considering how famous Cinderella would become, but since he went on to have a long career, one assumes being an important part of such an iconic project ended up being its own reward.
Phipps worked steadily over the next four decades, appearing in a number of movies and television series. He largely appeared in westerns, having played supporting roles onRawhide, Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, The Riflemanand Maverick, among other series. His largest role, however, was probably that of Curly Bill Brocius in 1956’s The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.
Phipps also found fame for his work in science-fiction. He appeared on The Twilight Zone, and in the 1953 film adaptation of Wbar of the Worlds. He also played one of the astronaut protagonists in Cat-Women of the Moon, and provided the voiceover narration for the 190-minute television edit of David Lynch’s Dune.
Phipps was married twice but had no children. His first wife sadly passed away in a car accident, while his second marriage ended in divorce. Phipps spent his final years in Malibu, where he was reportedly a local fixture, often seen out walking his dog or patronizing local businesses.