William Joseph Cody Jr. (1891-1948) Canandian Rodeo Performer, Stuntman, Actor, Writer, Producer, Second Assistant Director and Director. Bill Cody, the "B" movie cowboy star, was born William Joseph Cody, Jr., on January 5, 1891 in St. Paul, Minnesota 1891, although some sources list his place of birth as Manitoba. He was no relation to William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody. He was educated at Saint Thomas Military Academy in Minneapolis and later attended St. Johns University in New York. After graduating, he became an actor with the Metropolitan Stock Company, which toured the U.S. and Canada. He wound up in Hollywood in 1922 and got employment as a stuntman, eventually working his way up to bit parts as an actor.
As an actor using the pseudonym "Paul Walters," Cody appeared in two movies for producer Jesse Goldburg's Independent Pictures. In 1924, Goldburg decided to star Cody, under his own name, in a series of eight B-Western features, beginning with "Dangerous Days" (1924). Though he was short, Cody handled himself well in fight scenes, where he usually took on villains bigger than himself. Goldburg dropped Cody after the series, which wound up in 1925. He moved on to producer Pat Powers' Associated Exhibitors to make two films in 1926, then starred in The Arizona Whirlwind (1927) for Myron Selznick, which was released through Pathe Pictures. Possibly influenced by Selznick, who became a talent agent who pioneered the production of motion pictures by their stars, Cody created his own production company, making B-Westerns released by Pathe. Pathe terminated its relationship with Cody in 1928, and he signed with with Universal to star in three detective movies that proved to be his last silent pictures. In 1929, Cody went on tour with the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Show.
He made the transition to sound, and was back in the saddle in Under Texas Skies (1930) in 1930 for W. Ray Johnston's Syndicate Pictures. He subsequently signed with Monogram and made a series of eight B-westerns co-starring Andy Shuford in the popular Bill and Andy Series. In 1932, Monogram decided to replace Cody and its other western star, Tom Tyler, signing Bob Steele and Rex Bell to take their place.
It was back to touring with his Wild West show, this time with the Bostock Wild Animal Circus. He saddled up again for the silver screen in 1934, making three westerns for Robert Horner's Awyon Pictures, one of the poorest of the Poverty Row studios. His Awyon Picture The Border Menace (1934) has been called "the worst B-Western ever made". After fulfilling his contract, Cody went back on tour as the star of the Downie Bros. Circus.
Bill Cody and his wife Regina had two sons, Bill, Jr. and Frank. Cody signed up with producer Ray Kirkwood to make a series of Westerns in late 1934, and his son, Bill Cody, Jr. co-starred in four of them, beginning with Frontier Days (1934). Bill Cody's last movie for Kirkwood was Outlaws of the Range (1936), which also co-starred Bill, Jr. Spectrum, which released most of his Kirkwood pictures, announced that Bill Cody Sr. and Jr. would star in a series of B-westerns released by Spectrum the 1936-37 season, but it was never made.
He took time out from touring with his Wild West Show to star in one final picture, Fighting Cowboy, The (1939). Cody's last hurrah on the screen were bit parts as a rancher in John Ford's classic Stagecoach (1939) and as a sheriff in the George O'Brien western The Fighting Gringo (1939). He appeared in the serial The Masked Marvel (1943) and also had an uncredited bit part in Walter Wanger's production Joan of Arc (1948). It is likely that he appeared in bit parts in other movies in the 1940s, but no credits currently exist. Bill Cody died at Santa Monica, California, Jan. 24, 1948. He was 57 years old. He rode two horses, their names were "Chico" and "King".