A burly New York City native who specialized in playing all manner of lugs, both loveable and dangerous, William Bendix achieved a level of popularity that was almost unheard of for a character actor who proclaimed himself to be "about as handsome as a mud fence. " After performing in some unsuccessful plays, he first gained significant notice in the Broadway smash "The Time of Your Life" (1939-1940). That soon led to a movie career, with Bendix appearing in everything from comedies like "Woman of the Year" (1942) and "Who Done It?" (1942), to World War II actioners and thrillers like "The Glass Key" (1942) and Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" (1944). Bendix's blustery delivery and enduring likeability found a perfect vehicle in the comedy "The Life of Riley," first on radio (ABC/NBC, 1944-1951), then as a 1949 motion picture and, finally, a long-running television series (NBC, 1953-58). Loveable lunkhead Chester A. Riley was the role for which he was best remembered and while the show's formula was mostly set in stone, Bendix's talent helped to keep it fresh and amusing. As was customary with actors who sported something less than matinee idol looks, Bendix was largely restricted to playing certain types of characters, but few did as memorable a job on such a consistent basis, and he ranked as one of TV's archetypal patriarchs.