Donald Cook
Cook in a 1955 publicity photo
Born(1901-09-26)September 26, 1901
DiedOctober 1, 1961(1961-10-01) (aged 60)
Resting placeRiver View Cemetery, Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Oregon[1]
Years active1926–1959
Frances Beranger
(m. 1930⁠–⁠1931)
Princess Gioia Tasca di Cuto
(m. 1937)
RelativesRansom M. Cook (brother)[2]

Donald Cook (September 26, 1901 – October 1, 1961) was an American stage and film actor who had a prolific career in pre-Code Hollywood films and on Broadway. Cook is perhaps best known for his film roles in The Public Enemy (1931), Safe in Hell (1931), Baby Face (1933), and Viva Villa! (1934), as well as for his stage role as David Naughton in Claudia, which ran for a total of 722 performances on Broadway between 1941 and 1943.[3] He was the first actor to play Ellery Queen.


Cook was born and raised in Portland, Oregon,[1] and originally studied farming but later worked for a lumber company. Cook attended the University of Oregon.[1] One of his elder brothers was Ransom M. Cook, president of Wells Fargo Bank.[2][4] He joined the Kansas Community Players and through this received an offer of stage work. He started screen work in "shorts" before going on to feature films.[citation needed]

Donald Cook and Rita Flynn in The Public Enemy (1931)

Cook was known for his portrayal of Mike Powers in the film The Public Enemy. In 1935, Cook's starring role in the film The Spanish Cape Mystery made him the first actor in any medium to play fictional sleuth Ellery Queen. 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.

Cook made his Broadway debut in 1926 as Donn Cook in Seed of the Brute,[5] and his New York theatrical career continued over the following three decades. His credits included a 1948 revival of Private Lives and the original 1951 Broadway run of The Moon Is Blue.

Personal life

During his 1930 summer stock engagement at Elitch Theatre, Cook met and fell in love with Frances Beranger, another member of the company. “We were in love, and she urged me to go to Hollywood,” Cook said. “I did, and we were married when she returned to the coast from Denver.” The marriage lasted six months. However, “the prestige of my Elitch engagement helped me get my first Hollywood contract – with Warner Brothers.”[6]

Cook was married to Princess[7] Gioia Tasca di Cuto,[8] from 1937 until his death in 1961 (although they were legally separated at the time)[4] from a heart attack in New Haven, Connecticut, five days after his 60th birthday, in the midst of rehearsals for Cook's new play, A Shot in the Dark, an adaptation of L'Idiote.[9] Walter Matthau took over Cook's leading role in the play following his death.[9]

Cook is buried at River View Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.[10]

For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Cook was honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star located at 1718 Vine Street.[11][12]


Year Title Role Notes
1931 Unfaithful Terry Houston
1931 The Public Enemy Mike Powers
1931 Party Husband Horace Purcell
1931 Smart Money Nick's Second Accomplice Uncredited
1931 Side Show Joe Palmer
1931 The Mad Genius Fedor Ivanoff
1931 Safe in Hell Carl Bergen
1932 Taxi! Ferdinand Uncredited
1932 The Man Who Played God Harold Van Adam
1932 The Heart of New York Milton
1932 The Trial of Vivienne Ware John Sutherland
1932 The Conquerors Warren Lennox
1932 Penguin Pool Murder Philip Seymour
1932 Frisco Jenny Dan Reynolds
1933 Private Jones Lt. John Gregg
1933 The Circus Queen Murder The Great Sebastian
1933 The Kiss Before the Mirror Maria's Lover
1933 Jennie Gerhardt Lester Kane
1933 The Woman I Stole Corew
1933 Baby Face Stevens
1933 Brief Moment Franklin Deane
1933 Fury of the Jungle "Lucky" Allen
1933 Fog Wentworth Brown
1933 The World Changes Richard Nordholm
1934 Long Lost Father Bill Strong
1934 The Ninth Guest Jim Daley
1934 Viva Villa! Don Felipe de Castillo
1934 Whirlpool Bob Andrews
1934 The Most Precious Thing in Life Bob Kelsey
1934 Jealousy Mark Lambert
1934 Fugitive Lady Jack Howard
1935 Behind the Evidence Ward Cameron
1935 The Night Is Young Toni Berngruber
1935 Gigolette Gregg Emerson
1935 The Casino Murder Case Lynn Llewellyn
1935 Motive for Revenge Barry Webster
1935 Murder in the Fleet Lt. Cmdr. David Tucker
1935 Here Comes the Band Don Trevor
1935 Ladies Love Danger Tom Lennox
1935 The Spanish Cape Mystery Ellery Queen
1935 Confidential FBI Agent Dave Elliott
1935 The Calling of Dan Matthews Frank Blair
1936 The Leavenworth Case Dr. Truman Harwell
1936 Ring Around the Moon Ross Graham
1936 The Girl from Mandalay Kenneth Grainger
1936 Show Boat Steve Baker
1936 Ellis Island Gary Curtis
1936 Can This Be Dixie? Longstreet Butler
1936 Beware of Ladies George Martin
1937 Two Wise Maids Bruce Arnold
1937 Circus Girl Charles Jerome
1944 Freedom Comes High The Captain Short film
1944 Murder in the Blue Room Steve
1944 Bowery to Broadway Dennis Dugan
1945 Here Come the Co-Eds Dean Larry Benson
1945 Patrick the Great Pat Donahue, Sr.
1945 Blonde Ransom Duke Randall
1950 Our Very Own Fred Macaulay
Year Title Role Notes
1951 Prudential Family Playhouse Tony Kenyon 1 episode
1952 Lux Video Theatre Tad Bryson / Bruce Wallace / Roger 1 episode
1959 Too Young to Go Steady Tom Blake 7 episodes, (final appearance)

Stage credits



  1. ^ a b c d "Veteran actor dies". Reading Eagle. New Haven, Connecticut. October 2, 1961. p. 3. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Farewell Reunion Being Held at R. Cook Home". Santa Rosa Republican. 26 April 1934. p. 9. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Claudia". The Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Donald Cook, Stage Roue, Dies of Heart Attack". The Sacramento Bee. 2 October 1961. p. 8. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Donald Cook". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved October 14, 2023.
  6. ^ Borrillo, Theodore A. (2012). Denver's historic Elitch Theatre : a nostalgic journey (a history of its times). p. 162. ISBN 978-0-9744331-4-1. OCLC 823177622.
  7. ^ "Nov. 5 Lunch to Aid Girls Town of Italy". The New York Times. 4 October 1964. Retrieved 28 June 2023.
  8. ^ Kelling, Vesta (July 6, 1941). "'Leading Man of Our Time' Has 5 Wives, Stage Role and 3 Air Shows". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. 32. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  9. ^ a b Edelman, Rob; Kupferberg, Audrey. Matthau: A Life. Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 131.
  10. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3 ed. McFarland. p. 154.
  11. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Donald Cook". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  12. ^ "Donald Cook". Los Angeles Times. Hollywood Star Walk. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  13. ^ "Donald Cook". The Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved January 11, 2016.