Apr 19, 2013

The Boxer of Bilko

If you happened to watch the military comedy Sergeant Bilko (aka The Phil Silvers Show) from 1955 to 1959, or today on the Me TV network, you may have been surprised by the beefcake -- lots of hunky guys in t-shirts or underwear, quite unusual for the 1950s.

And you may have wondered about the gentle, gay-vague botanist Sergeant Dillingham, played by Walter Cartier.  You may have wondered what sort of fellow changes his name from the masculine Carter to Cartier, which sounds like diamonds.


It turns out that Walter's grandfather, a violinist, made the name change from McCarthy to avoid anti-Irish prejudice.  Walter had a paradoxical career: a macho-coded professional boxer (46 wins, 13 losses), and a feminine-coded dancer.

After a couple of movie roles as a dancer, he was the subject of a feature article in Look magazine.  That drew the attention of Stanley Kubrick, who was looking for a "young, handsome, well-built fighter."  He used Walter in his first film, Day of the Fight (1951).

Kubrick would go on to direct the homoerotic subtext-heavy Spartacus (1960) and 2001: A Space Oddysey (1968).








The Phil Silvers Show was another paradoxical role for Walter Cartier, a gentle muscleman.

Afterwards Walter had a few more minor roles, as a dancer on The Benny Hill Show and Fiddler on the Roof, and a heavy on the tv series Doomwatch.  












I don't know who the girl in the "frolicking with girl" pictures in Life Magazine is.  None of his bios mention a wife. Maybe he didn't have one.