Dooley Wilson

(1886 - 1953)

A photo of Dooley Wilson
Dooley Wilson
1886 - 1953
Born
April 3, 1886
Tyler, Smith County, Texas United States
Death
May 30, 1953
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Other Names
Arthur "Dooley" Wilson, Arthur "Dooley" Wilson
Summary
Dooley Wilson was born on April 3, 1886 in Tyler, Texas. He married Estelle Williams and Dooley died. He died on May 30, 1953 in Los Angeles, California at age 67.
Updated: December 21, 2020
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Dooley Wilson: As Times Goes By
Arthur “Dooley” Wilson (1886-1953). Today people know him pretty exclusively for his pivotal role as “Sam” in Casablanca (1942). But there’s much more to his life and career than that!
Born in Tyler, East Texas, Wilson was already working professionally as a singer at age seven (the family needed the income after his father died.) From singing in churches he graduated to tent shows and black vaudeville. He’d already been in the business for a decade when he began performing at the pathbreaking Pekin Theatre in Chicago in 1908. It was around this time that he got his professional nickname, due to the fact that he performed a comical Irish character and sang a song called “Mr. Dooley”. In the mid-teens he worked with Charles Gilpin’s and Anita Bush’s theatre companies in Harlem.
In addition to singing and acting, Wilson also played the drums. In that capacity he played with James Reese Europe during World War One, and then later started his own band The Red Devils, which toured Europe throughout the Jazz Age. Interestingly, despite the impression he creates in Casablanca he did not actually play piano — just the drums.
During the Depression he worked with the Federal Theatre Project under the direction of John Houseman. He had the lead in The Conjur’ Man Dies (1936) on Broadway with the project (go here for an original artwork my wife made in homage to the novel upon which the play was based). With the project he was also in O’Neill’s The Long Voyage Home (1937) and Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion (1938). After The Strangler Fig (1940) he was in the original stage production of Cabin in the Sky (1940-41) in the role that went to Eddie “Rochester” Anderson in the film version. The original production of Bloomer Girl (1944-46) was his last Broadway show.
Meanwhile, he’d also broken into movies. His first was the race picture Keep Punching (1939). In total he amassed 20 screen credits, including My Favorite Blonde (1942) with Bob Hope, Stormy Weather (1943), and two episodes of Beulah. His last role was in the western Passage West (1951). Dooley had a major role in Come To The Stable.
Published by travsd
Writer and performer Trav S.D. (www.travsd.com) is best known for his books "No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous" (2005) and "Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube" (2013). He has written for the NY Times, the Village Voice, American Theatre, Time Out NY, Reason, the Villager and numerous other publications.
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Biography
Dooley Wilson
Most commonly known name
Dooley Wilson
Full name
Arthur "Dooley" Wilson, Arthur "Dooley" Wilson
Nickname(s) or aliases
Male
Gender
Dooley Wilson was born on in Tyler, Smith County, Texas United States
Birth
Dooley Wilson died on in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Death
Dooley Wilson was born on in Tyler, Smith County, Texas United States
Dooley Wilson died on in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Birth
Death
at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States 90007
Burial / Funeral
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

African-American.

Nationality & Locations

American
Childhood

Education

He began working at age 7.

Religion

Protestant
Adulthood

Professions

Dooley Wilson
Born April 3, 1886 in Tyler, Texas, USA
Died May 30, 1953 in Los Angeles, California, USA (natural causes)
Birth Name Arthur Wilson
"You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh; the fundamental things apply, as time goes by...". . The gentleman who crooned this now legendary tune for the morose Humphrey Bogart and moist-eyed Ingrid Bergman at Rick's Cafe Americain amid the bleak WWII backdrop was none other than 56-year-old Arthur "Dooley" Wilson, an African-American actor and singer who earned a comfortable niche for himself in film history with this simple, dramatic, piano-playing scene.
Dooley was born Arthur Wilson in Tyler, Texas. His exact year of birth was debated for years, listed in reference books as either 1886 or 1894. His grave marker, however, at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles gives the year 1886. At age 12 he performed in minstrel shows and later became a fixture in black theater in both Chicago and New York (circa 1908). He received the nickname "Dooley" while working in the Pekin Theatre in Chicago, because of his then-signature Irish song "Mr. Dooley," which he usually performed in whiteface as an Irishman. In subsequent years Dooley displayed his musical skills in various forms. As a vaudevillian, drummer and jazz band leader, he entertained both here and in 1920s European tours (Paris, London, etc). From the 1930s to the 1950s he focused on theatrical musicals and occasional films.
Appearing in such diverse Broadway plays as the comedy "Conjur Man Dies (1936) and the melodrama "The Strangler Fig" (1940), along with various Federal Theater productions for Orson Welles and John Houseman. This exposure led directly to his signing on as a contract player with Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. He unfortunately began things off in era stereotypes as porters, chauffeurs and the like. Unhappy with his movie roles he was about to abandon Hollywood altogether when Paramount lent him out to Warner Bros. for the piano-playing role of Sam and the rest is history. In Casablanca (1942), Dooley immortalized the song "As Time Goes By" as boss and nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Bogart) and lost true love Ilsa Lund (Bergman) briefly rekindled an old romantic flame. While paid only $350 a week for his services, Dooley achieved his own immortality as well. However, he was not a pianist in real life and was dubbed while fingering the keyboard. In addition to "As Time Goes By," Dooley's character did warm renditions of "It Had To Be You," "Shine," "Knock On Wood" and "Parlez-moi d'amour."
Back on the live stage Dooley portrayed an escaped slave in the musical "Bloomer Girl" (1946) and, as a result, made another song famous, "The Eagle and Me," which went on for inclusion in the Smithsonian recordings compilation "American Musical Theatre." He graced approximately twenty other motion pictures in all, including the war-era musicals Stormy Weather (1943) and Higher and Higher (1943).
In his final season of performing (1952-1953) Dooley was a regular on the TV sitcom Beulah (1950) which starred Ethel Waters. He played the title maid's boyfriend Bill Jackson and Dooley was the second of three actors who would play the role during its three-season run. Dooley died of natural causes on May 30, 1953, and was survived by wife, Estelle, who subsequently passed away in 1971.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / [contact link]
Spouse (1)
Estelle Williams (? - 30 May 1953) ( his death)
Did not know how to play the piano. In Casablanca, the piano was empty and the music came from a pianist located behind the camera.
Was on the board of directors of the Negro Actors Guild of America.
Though Wilson received only $350 per week for Casablanca (1942), the cost Paramount imposed on Warner Bros. for the loan out resulted in Wilson being the most expensive of Casablanca's supporting cast.
Dooley won the role of Sam over top contender Clarence Muse who later played Sam in a 1950s TV adaptation of "Casablanca."
Dooley's piano playing in the film was actually performed by pianist/composer/songwriter Elliot Carpenter, who was placed where Wilson could see and imitate his hand movements. The only black talent on the Casablanca (1942) set, Wilson and Carpenter became and remained friends.
There is a line often misquoted from Casablanca (1942). In a scene where Rick (Bogart) sits in the darkened nightclub, alone except for Dooley's piano-playing Sam, he is seen drinking and tormenting himself by insisting that Sam repeatedly play "As Time Goes By," saying, "You played it for her, you can play it for me... If she can stand it, I can! Play it!" Bogart's line is often misquoted as, "Play it again, Sam!"
His vocal of "As Time Goes By" from "Casablanca" (1942) has become so iconic that, more than 70 years later, the original soundtrack recording continues to be used in the soundtracks of new motion picture and television productions.
Salary (1)
Casablanca (1942) $350 /week
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Dooley Wilson & Estelle Williams

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Amanda S. Stevenson
12.1k+ favorites
Sam in "Play it again, Sam"
Apr 05, 2019 · Reply

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Dooley Wilson
ORIGINAL NAME Arthur
BIRTH 3 Apr 1886
Tyler, Smith County, Texas, USA
DEATH 30 May 1953 (aged 67)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
BURIAL
Angelus Rosedale Cemetery
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA Show Map
PLOT Section D, Lot 6, Grave 5 NE
MEMORIAL ID 5895391 · View Source

MEMORIAL
PHOTOS 4
FLOWERS 346
Actor and Musician. He spent most of his Texas childhood performing in minstrel shows. After touring Europe with his own jazz band in the 1920s, he acted in Federal Theatre Project plays and made it to Broadway in the cast of "Cabin in the Sky" (1940). Wilson's Hollywood career was brief---just over a dozen films in the last decade of his life---and consisted mainly of uncredited supporting parts and bits. But he will always be remembered as Sam, the piano player of "Casablanca" (1943), crooning "As Time Goes By" to a dewy-eyed Ingrid Bergman. In real life Wilson was a drummer, not a pianist, and his playing in the film had to be dubbed. He did, however, have experience performing in Paris nightclubs, giving the role some verisimilitude. At the time of his death he was a regular on the TV series "Beulah".

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Dooley's lifetime.

In 1886, in the year that Dooley Wilson was born, on October 28th, President Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the Statue of Liberty. A gift from France, the base for the statue had been built using donations from the American public. The unplanned but enthusiastic celebration after the dedication led to the first ticker tape parade.

In 1892, when he was merely 6 years old, on October 5th, the Dalton Gang was shot. The Gang was attempting to rob two banks - simultaneously - in Coffeyville Kansas but word spread of the robberies and townspeople with guns greeted them when they left the banks. Four members of the gang were killed - only Emmett Dalton survived his wounds and spent 14 years in prison.

In 1901, Dooley was only 15 years old when shortly after beginning his second term, President McKinley was assassinated by the self proclaimed anarchist Leon Czolgosz. The last President to have served in the Civil War - he began as a private and ended the war as a brevet major - McKinley was a Republican. First elected in 1896, he was re-elected in 1900. Six months after the swearing in, McKinley was shot - and died of the gangrene that set in as a result.

In 1924, when he was 38 years old, in May, wealthy college students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb kidnapped and killed 14 year old Robert Franks "in the interest of science". Leopold and Loeb thought that they were intellectually superior and that they could commit the perfect crime and not be caught. They were brought in for questioning within 8 days and quickly confessed. Clarence Darrow was hired as their defense lawyer, getting them life imprisonment instead of a death sentence. Loeb was eventually killed in prison - Leopold was released after 33 years, dying of a heart attack at age 66.

In 1953, in the year of Dooley Wilson's passing, on July 27th, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. The Armistice was to last until "a final peaceful settlement is achieved". No peaceful settlement has ever been agreed upon.

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Jan 31, 1964 - July 2016 1964 - 2016
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1965 - 2017 1965 - 2017
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Feb 13, 1851 - Jan 19, 1930 1851 - 1930
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1878 - Unknown 1878 - ?
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Apr 16, 1908 - Unknown 1908 - ?
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May 25, 1909 - Unknown 1909 - ?
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Feb 21, 1911 - Unknown 1911 - ?
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Apr 21, 1947 - May 27, 2003 1947 - 2003
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1871 - Jan 20, 1897 1871 - 1897
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1894 - 1957 1894 - 1957
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1826 - Jun 5, 1882 1826 - 1882
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1871 - Feb 25, 1924 1871 - 1924
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Unknown - January 1885 ? - 1885
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1871 - 1907 1871 - 1907
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1893 - 1979 1893 - 1979
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1800 - May 6, 1874 1800 - 1874
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Aug 13, 1857 - Sep 9, 1929 1857 - 1929
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