De Wolfe, Billy, S1c

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Last Rank
Seaman 1st Class
Last Primary NEC
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Primary Unit
1942-1944, NTS Great Lakes, IL
Service Years
1942 - 1944
Seaman 1st Class

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This Military Service Page was created/owned by Steven Loomis (SaigonShipyard), IC3 to remember De Wolfe, Billy (born William Andrew Jones), S1c.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Wollaston, MA
Last Address
William Andrew Jones, Billy De Wolfe
Los Angeles, CA
Actor, Medical Discharge July 1944.

Date of Passing
Mar 05, 1974
Location of Interment
Mount Wollaston Cemetery - Quincy, Massachusetts
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

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Last Known Activity

William Andrew Jones, USNR WWII
aka Billy De Wolfe, actor/musician

Born William Andrew Jones in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts, DeWolfe was the son of a Welsh bookbinder who encouraged him to become a Baptist minister. Instead, "Billy" developed an interest in the theatre. He found work as an usher before becoming a dancer with the Jimmy O'Connor Band. It was at this point that he changed his last name to De Wolfe, which was the last name of the manager of the Massachusetts theatre where he worked. He went on to tour Europe with a dance team, appearing in a London revue called "Revels in Rhythm" and "danced before royalty on nine continents." In 1942, at the age of 35, he enlisted under his birth name and served in the United States Navy as a musician in the entertainment department until he was discharged for "medical" reasons in July 1944. (His service dates are sometimes listed as 20 January 1942, discharged 1945).

Other Comments:
Most certainly egged on by the dandified antics of an Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore and/or Franklin Pangborn, burlesque clown Billy DeWolfe in turn gave obvious inspiration to such effete cutups as Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly. Billy's life was one hundred percent show business from start to finish in a career that lasted five decades, and it took everything, including the proverbial vaudeville hook, to get the delightful ham off the stage he craved and loved so well.

Christened William Andrew Jones, he was the son of a Welsh-born immigrant and bookbinder. Born in Massachusetts, the family returned to Wales almost immediately and did not come back to the States until Billy was nine years old. He began his career in the theater as an usher until he found work as a dancer with a band. He subsequently took his name from a theater manager, William De Wolfe, who actually offered him his name. Billy developed his own comedy/dance act and originally played the vaudeville circuit as part of a duo or trio. In London for five years, he eventually went solo and was given the chance to play the London Palladium at one point. He returned to America in 1939 and enjoyed notice as a prime radio and nightclub performer/impressionist, appearing in satirical revues, sometimes in drag, with great results.

Billy enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 shortly after completing his first movie role as a riverboat conman in Dixie (1943) for Paramount. In civilian clothes again by war's end, he returned to Paramount and brought hyper comedy relief to a number of films.  A lifelong hypochondriac, Billy was about to take on the role of Madam Lucy in a 1973 Broadway revival of "Irene" when the ravages of lung cancer forced him to leave the show before rehearsals even began. Character player George S. Irving replaced Billy and went on to win a "supporting actor" Tony for his wild efforts. Billy lost his fight at age 67 in 1974.
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