Dick Wilson: Character actor

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The Independent Online

Riccardo DiGuglielmo (Dick Wilson), actor: born Preston, Lancashire 30 July 1916; married (one son, two daughters); died Woodland Hills, California 19 November 2007.

In 1978 Dick Wilson topped a poll as the third most recognised face in the United States, behind the former president Richard Nixon and the evangelist Billy Graham – thanks to his appearances as the exasperated shopkeeper Mr Whipple in more than 500 advertisements over 20 years for Charmin toilet tissue. His catchphrase was: "Ladies, please don't squeeze the Charmin." When no one was looking, the grocer would hug a packet himself.

Born Riccardo DiGuglielmo in Preston, Lancashire, in 1916, he moved with his family to Canada when young and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario. He graduated from Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, before landing a job designing scenery for a dance school, following his parents into show business – his Italian father was a vaudeville entertainer and his English mother a singer. Instead of a salary, he accepted dance lessons, which led him into a 20-year vaudeville career under the name Dick Wilson (his mother's maiden name).

During the Second World War, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He became an American citizen in 1954 and found regular employment on screen, usually in one-off character roles. He was seen in popular series such as Wagon Train (1958), Maverick (1960), Perry Mason (1963) and The Munsters (1965), before a short run as the Italian Dino Baroni (1965-66) in McHale's Navy. Wilson also took five different roles in Hogan's Heroes, as well as appearing in 18 episodes of Bewitched, often as a drunk.

His films included the Vincent Price picture Diary of a Madman (1963), the romantic comedy What a Way To Go! (1964), the Elvis Presley vehicle Stay Away, Joe (1968) and the sci-fi fantasy The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981).

From 1964 until 1985, he presented the Charmin commercials, the first filmed in Flushing, New York, and once rued that "I've done 38 pictures and nobody remembers any of them, but they all remember me selling toilet paper."

Anthony Hayward

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