A solid film and TV player bearing a strong, honest persona for most his career, this innocent-eyed, boyishly handsome blond “B” actor of the 40s and 50s was born in Brooklyn on May 21, 1915, and educated there at the Pratt Institute. A natural athlete, Bill Williams was a professional swimmer who broke into the entertainment business combining his swimming and dancing skills performing in aquatic underwater shows. Gaining experience as a performer in vaudeville and stock shows (both here and England), he started appearing in extra or bit parts in films following WWII U.S. Army duty. He made his debut in Murder in the Blue Room (1944) and could be glimpsed here and there as various student, soldier or rookie types for the first couple of years.
By the time the war ended, RKO Pictures had him under contract and gave him co-star billing in such promising entries as Till the End of Time (1946) in which he played Robert Mitchum’s ex-GI buddy, and the film noir piece Deadline at Dawn (1946) as a sailor who gets tangled up with both murder and lovelies Susan Hayward and Lola Lane. In 1945 fellow RKO actress Barbara Hale asked the director of West of the Pecos (1945), Edward Killy, to hire Bill so they could spend time together (see Barbara Hale’s personal quotes). They married a year later and went on to co-star together in the light comedy A Likely Story (1947) and the film noir suspenser The Clay Pigeon (1949). They had two daughters and a son.
Bill was a reliable “nice guy” lead and second lead. While he showed steady improvement and likability in films, he had a difficult time rising above the benign “B” adventure material he was shoehorned into playing (Fighting Man of the Plains (1949), Rookie Fireman (1950), The Cariboo Trail (1950), to name a few). In the early 50s he started checking out the relatively new medium of TV as a viable means of employment. He scored big with the kiddies as the title hero in the syndicated The Adventures of Kit Carson (1951), which ran for three seasons, and later shifted to lighter, less strenuous work as Betty White’s hubby in the promising but short-lived domestic comedy Date with the Angels (1957). In 1960 he returned to his watery roots with the “Sea Hunt”-inspired adventure _”Assignment Underwater” (1960)_, but the program was short-lived. He also appeared in guest assignments in such popular TV shows as “Rawhide,” “77 Sunset Strip,” and “Hawaiian Eye,” not to mention multiple episodes of wife Barbara’s series “Perry Mason,” in which she co-starred as girl Friday Della Street.
While Bill continued to perform throughout the 70s and into the early 80s in character roles, he was seen less and less as his interest waned. Bill and Barbara did appear together in the films Buckskin (1968) and The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), as well as occasionally on TV. Their middle child, son William Katt, a blond stunner who went on to fame in the movie Carrie (1976) and the weekly series spoof The Greatest American Hero (1981), obviously got his incredibly good looks from his dad. Bill died of a brain tumor in 1992.
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