Riccardo Di Guglielmo was born July 30, 1916 in Lancashire, England.
His father was an Italian vaudeville actor and his mother was a British singer.
In late 1916, the family moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Riccardo got his start in show business at the age of fifteen with a part-time job at a local Hamilton radio station.
Not wanting to be typecast as Italian, he changed his first name to Dick and took his mothers maiden name Wilson as his performing surname.
Upon graduating from the Ontario College of Art & Design he followed in his fathers footsteps and became a vaudeville comic and dancer.
World War II
Dick enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force at the outset of World War II in Europe and became a fighter pilot against the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
After defending his homeland during the war, Dick moved to the United States and became an acrobatic dancer in New York City.
Dick Wilson then became an American citizen in 1954, and headed to California to seek film and television work.
He made numerous appearances as several characters on the television sitcom Bewitched (usually as the drunk), sometimes as a neighbor or other stock character.
Dick reprised this role as “The Drunk” on the Bewitched spin-off “Tabitha” as well as on the TV show McHale’s Navy.
He played a similar character in Disney’s The World’s Greatest Athlete in 1973.
Dick was cast in over 80 roles ranging from character roles on film to small roles on television such as Adam-12 (shown below).
He also made appearances on The Donna Reed Show, Hogan’s Heroes, and The Bob Newhart Show.
Then, Dick was hired to appear in TV commercials for Charmin toilet paper. The first series of these commercials were filmed in, appropriately enough, Flushing, New York.
Dick Wilson went on to make more than 504 commercials between 1964 and 1985 as Mr. Whipple, earning about $300,000 annually while working only twelve days a year.
He described acting in commercials as “the hardest thing to do in the entire acting realm. You’ve got 24 seconds to introduce yourself, introduce the product, say something nice about it and get off gracefully.”
Later, Dick was quoted as saying,
“I’ve done thirty-eight pictures and nobody remembers any of them, but they all remember me selling toilet paper.”
In appreciation for his performance of the recognizable character, Procter & Gamble famously provided Dick Wilson with a free lifetime supply of Charmin.
Dick Wilson died at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, California on
November 19, 2007 at the age of 91.
He is buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles where his grave marker reads “HE MADE US LAUGH”
Indeed he did!
Now WE know em