‘Billy’ Benedict; Character Actor
William “Billy” Benedict, a character actor best remembered for his roles as Skinny in the East Side Kids serial and Whitey in the first 24 of the following Bowery Boys shorts, has died at the age of 82.
Benedict, who also had a host of small parts in big movies such as “Funny Girl” and “The Sting,” died Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of complications after heart surgery.
Born in Haskell, Okla., he was active in his high school drama department in Tulsa, but his first jobs were as a newsboy and a plumber’s assistant.
During the Depression, he left school at 17 and came to Los Angeles, hoping to become a dancer. But that profession, he quickly learned, was oversubscribed in Hollywood--dancers were a dime a dozen.
So to get a job, he turned his attention to acting. With his platinum hair and mousy features, he fell naturally into juvenile roles and was able to play them well into his 40s.
After making his debut in Fox’s "$10 Raise” in 1935 and playing a few smaller roles, he signed on as Skinny Benny in the 1943 “East Side Kids Meet Bela Lugosi.” He continued the role in other films in the series of the down-and-out boys.
The Bowery Boys series followed, with many of the same young actors, and Benedict got a new name--Whitey--to match his hair. He tagged along with Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and the rest of the gang for 24 episodes between 1946 and 1951, including “Live Wires,” “The Bowery Buckaroos,” “Angels in Disguise,” “Bowery Battalion,” “Blues Busters” and “Ghost Chasers.”
Benedict appeared in more than 150 films over half a century, often in such roles as a deliveryman, telegraph boy, news vendor, messenger, clerk or bellboy.
He took similar parts on popular television series ranging from “Hill Street Blues” to “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “All in the Family,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Gunsmoke” and “Here’s Lucy.” Benedict also had a recurring role as Willie Trankis in “Petticoat Junction” during the 1963 season.
Unfortunately, the actor once complained mildly, for all the characters he was asked to play, none of them ever danced.
His most recent work had been in commercials.
Benedict is survived by his sister, Susanne Quickel, three nieces and a nephew.