Bill Williams, the virile, boyishly good looking actor who rode the television range as the famous Indian scout in 104 episodes of “The Adventures of Kit Carson” in the early 1950s, has died at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank of complications of a brain tumor.
A featured player in such Western films as “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and “Rio Lobo,” Williams was 77 when he died Monday.
Unlike many adventure stars of the 1930s and ‘40s, Williams was an athlete who did much of his own riding and stunts. For years, he and his actress wife, Barbara Hale--the omnipresent Della Street on television’s “Perry Mason"--lived on a working ranch in Yucca Valley where they prided themselves on raising their three children far from the city.
Williams, born William H. Katt in Brooklyn, said in a 1951 interview with The Times that he--like many of his friends at Public School 122--yearned for the wide-open spaces he would someday occupy. He became an expert swimmer and a junior national champion in his teens and credited swimming for his physique.
His father was an actor and he gravitated toward show business, beginning in vaudeville with the Stuart Morgan dancers for nine years.
After Army Air Corps service in World War II, he made his debut as a contract player for RKO. He was loaned to Universal and under the name Bill Williams was featured in the 1944 mystery “Murder in the Blue Room.”
His more than 50 films included “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” “Those Endearing Young Charms,” “The Great Missouri Raid,” “Son of Paleface,” “Bronco Buster,” “Broken Star,” “Scandalous John” and “Till the End of Time.” He co-starred opposite Hale in “A Likely Story” in 1946, the year they married.
In 1951, he filmed the first of the 104 episodes that became the syndicated legacy of Kit Carson, with Don Diamond as his sidekick, righting wrongs and rescuing damsels in the popular series, which filmed for four years.
When he signed on in 1957 for the “Date With the Angels,” a situation comedy TV series opposite Betty White, he reportedly told a publicist: “I never want to see or hear of Kit Carson again.”
Williams’ son William Katt is an actor whose film appearances include “Carrie” and “Butch and Sundance: The Early Days,” and he also appeared in the television series “The Greatest American Hero” and several “Perry Mason” episodes.
In addition to his son, Williams is survived by two daughters, Jody Katt Coulter and Nita Katt King, and four grandchildren.
A funeral service has been scheduled Friday at 3 p.m. at Church of the Hills, Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. The family asks that contributions be made to the YMCA or the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills.