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Appeared in EQ movieDonald Cook (Sep 26, 1901  -  Oct 1, 1961)

Publicity photo of a young Donald Cook

Height: 5' 11" (1,8 m)
Mortimer P. (1892 - 1976)
          Ransom McCurdy (1893 - 1986)
          Marjorie (1892 - bfr. 1961)       
          (1) Maxine Dailey Lewis, radio singer
                (Jan 16, 1934 - 1934, divorce)
               Daughter: Donna Dailey Cook (b. May 22. 1934)
          (2) Princess Gioia Tasca di Cuto (1937 -  until
                Oct 1961, his death)

Donald Fenton Cook was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, to Frank Ransom Cook and Edith Parker.

He originally studied farming and inaugurated his theatrical career at the little theater in Portland. Cook graduated from the University of Oregon.


At one time he toured the west in a song and patter act. "Strictly small time," he explained. One day when he found himself in Kansas City out of funds and had to take a job as a bell-hop, he thought he was down on his luck. But he was wrong. It was strictly a gesture anyway, because his family is in the banking business and, although they then disapproved of his choice of professions, they never have felt any financial pain. Finally be got a job in the lumber business but was so stage struck he started acting in the Kansas City community theater and there Margaret Anglin saw him, liked his work, asked him to call at her hotel, and told him so. "It seemed too good to be true,' Cook related, "but soon I received a telegram instructing me to join an all-star touring company of "rivals," featuring the late Minnie Maddern Fiske." This great lady of the stage, said Cook, taught him everything he knows about the theater.

He worked briefly as a bank clerk, but gave up the job to take a fling at vaudeville during the early 1920's. He was in "48 Hours Leave" in San Francisco before making his Broadway debut in 1926 as Donn Cook, a name he used until 1930, in Seed of the Brute. Then he made a hit with Madge Kennedy in "Paris Bound," playing another kind of husband..., the sort that goes to Europe for romances. Next he was in "Half Gods" and "Rebound".


He started screen work in "shorts" before going on to feature films. It's fair to say Donald Cook came to films initially as leading man during the early sound era. Although he is certainly an expert and handsome actor, his features are not as strongly etched as most of the top stars of the screen. Subsequently relegated to supporting roles. Cook spent seven years in Hollywood playing in 30 films. He always seemed to project a dour personality, which was more effective as the shell-shocked war veteran brother Mike Powers of James Cagney in the film The Public Enemy (1931). He also played the protégé of crippled ballet impresario John Barrymore in The Mad Genius (1931), Bette Davis' love interest in The Man Who Played God (1932).


Cook was known for his portrayal of Mike Powers in the film The Public Enemy (1931) , here holding Rita Flynn ((Molly Doyle) in his arms In 1932 Donald and actress Evalyn Knapp (a 1932 WAMPAS Baby Star, with Marion Shockley!) announced their engagementDonald with Sylvia Sydney in Jennie Gerhardt (1933)

In 1932 Donald and actress Evalyn Knapp (a 1932 WAMPAS Baby Star, with Marion Shockley!) announced their engagement, whatever happened it didn't result in them getting married. 


Reportedly Donald Cook’s "hobby" was collecting stray dogs and giving them a home until friends take them, so the actor has room for another. After moving into a new home in Beverly Hills, the actor built the wire enclosure for his five dogs and housed them safely before he moved his own belongings. The white dog was named Jean, after Jean Harlow. (1932)


Mary Brian and Donald Cook snapped dining in the Gold Room of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (1933) Donald Cook as Lt. John Gregg in  'Private Jones' (1933)

When in 1933 he met Maxine Lewis, radio singer, he proposed marriage to her on Aug. 11 and she accepted. On Nov. 16 Cook was named in a $100,000 breach of promise suit filed by Miss Lewis, who charged, among other things, that she was soon to become a mother. On January 13. 1934 Donald Cook and Maxine Lewis seem to have come to an agreement as was revealed that they are to be married privately on Tuesday January 16. "I'm terribly happy," said Miss Lewis in the newspapers. On May 22. 1934 in Los Angeles Maxine gave birth to a girl named Donna Dailey Cook. Shortly after they were married the romance went on the rocks. According to a suit for divorce filed June 29. 1934 Cook insisted after two days of honeymoon Cook on returning to Hollywood.


Donald Cook and Maxine Lewis obtaining their marriage license (1934)Donna Daily Cook, 4 days old, daughter of Donald Cook, film actor, and his wife, the former Maxine Dailey Lewis, singer, was more interested in getting her full quota of sleep than in such things as picture taking when she was photographed with her mother in a Hollywood Hospital (May 26. 1934)


He was one of the first film actors to portray Ellery Queen. In The Spanish Cape Mystery, a low-budget 1935 mystery Cook plays Ellery Queen in a low-key, poker-faced fashion, which may not be terribly exciting but is actually closer to the original concept than most of the movie Queens. Cook's flirtatious Ellery is unrelated to any Ellery Queen novel.

He he was one of the first film actors to portray Ellery Queen. In The Spanish Cape Mystery, a low-budget 1935 mystery Cook plays Ellery Queen in a low-key, poker-faced fashionAnother scene from 1935's Spanish Cape Mystery with Donald Cook opposite Helen Twelvetrees

He played the role of Steve opposite Helen Morgan's Julie in the 1936 film adaptation of Show Boat, was one of the suspects in the Philo Vance mystery The Casino Murder Case, and starred as an heroic U.S. Immigrant Inspector of the Deporting Squad in the 1936 movie, Ellis Island.

In 1937 Cook married to former Princess Giovanna Mastro - Giovanni Tasca Di Cuto, with whom he resided on Long Island, NY. (aka Gioia Tasca di Cuto).

Less known is his work in old time radio. In CBS' 'Life Begins' Donald Cook played Lloyd Crawford, Virginia's Craig's love interest. The series ran from Jan 22, 1940 until Jul 18, 1941. He also appeared in an episode of radio's Columbia Workshop, described as a very touching crime story, beautifully told, 'Wings of An Eagle' was broadcast on Feb 23, 1941.

In 1941 Don he did an average of 10 a week but in the past had made as many as 35 radio broadcasts in one week. He lived In East 48th street in the Turtle Bay district and also had a farm at Cobalt, Conn.

He said not a word about his "art" He even called it "play-pretending." He didn't think that he will always be an actor. "An actor," he said, "has too many crutches... first the author writes his lines and then a director tells him how to deliver them. I'll get into something else eventually, maybe directing or writing."

In 'Circus Girl'  (1937) trapeze artist Kay Rogers (June Travis) marries aerial-act member Charles Jerome (Donald Cook), who immediately become jealous of fellow-trapeze artist Bob McAvoy, and sets out to kill him.A scene from the 1942 stage play 'Claudia' includes Donald Cook and Dorothy McGuire.

It was the stage, however that gave him widest range to display his talents or comic lechery. He also enjoyed a comic lark opposite Tallulah Bankhead in "Foolish Notion", and a 1948 revival of Private Lives. By 1950 he forsook films entirely in favor of stage work. In the original 1951 Broadway run of The Moon Is Blue he delighted Manhattan theatergoers as Barbara Bel Geddes' would-be-seducer. This play in which he starred that had the longest run, was made into a film that caused a scandal in its time because it used the word "virgin" while showing a woman's bedroom. Cook played the same role that David Niven played in the 1953 film.

1949 Press Photo Tallulah Bankhead with Donald Cook of Private Lives In the original 1951 Broadway run of The Moon Is Blue Cook delighted Manhattan theatergoers as Barbara Bel Geddes' would-be-seducer.

That same year Cook was also heard on radio CBS's My Son Jeep. Donald Cook plays Doctor Robert Allison, a widower in Grove Falls, USA. He is left to raise his sweet thirteen year old daughter Peggy, played by Joan Lazer, and his ten year old son, Jeffery "Jeep" Allison, a mischievous ten-year-old boy reminiscent of Dennis the Menace (Jan 25 - Jun 14, 1953)

From 1956 Joan Bennett was seriously involved with Donald Cook, whom she referred to as the love of her life (he legally separed Gioia a few years before his death).

He also made television appearances in, "Wanted: Dead Or Alive" "Goodyear Television Playhouse", "The Prudential Family Playhouse" (1950), "The Billy Rose Show" and "The Philco Television Playhouse". But perhaps he is best known for his role as 'Tom Blake' in the television series, "Too Young To Go Steady" (1959)

Donald Cook and Glenda Farrell in 'Masquerade'(aka 'Lovely Star, Good Night') a play in three acts which was performed at the John Golden Theatre on Mar 16, 1959Candid picture of Joan Bennett and Donald Cook both guests at a recent Palace Theater party following the premiere of "Pillow Talk" (Oct 19, 1959)

He died in New Haven aged 60. His death came a day after he suffered a heart attack while here for the tryout of a new Broadway play. He was found semi-conscious on the flour of his hotel room after he failed to appear for a matinee performance of the French comedy "A Shot in the Dark," an adaptation of L'Idiote, starring Julie Harris. Joel Thomas, the understudy stepped in but it was Walter Matthau who took over Cook's leading role in the play following his death.

Cook leaves his widow Joya (sic), from whom he was legally separated several years ago, and two brothers in San Francisco. He was buried at River View Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Cook was honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star located at 1718 Vine Street

Click if you think you can help out...!

(1) Wikipedia

(2) IMDb
(3) IBDB

Additional video & audio sources
(1) 'The Public Enemy' (1931) James Cagney takes a punch from Donald Cook
(2) Old Time Radio Downloads
Page first published on April 23, 2017 
Last updated April 23, 201

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