William “Bill” Phipps, the original voice of Prince Charming in Disney’s Cinderella and a veteran science fiction actor, has passed away at the age of 96. He died Friday at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, following a battle with lung cancer, reports Variety, and his death was confirmed by Phipps’ friend, writer and film historian Tom Weaver.
Born in Vincennes, Indiana, Phipps was raised in St. Francisville, Illinois, where he fell in love with acting at a very young age and performed in several stage productions throughout grade school and high school before attending Eastern Illinois University in 1939. Although he didn’t graduate, Phipps would later receive an honorary doctorate from the school in 2006.
As a sophomore, he dropped out and moved to Hollywood in order to pursue an acting career, but ended up joining the Navy as a radio operator in the Pacific during World War II. After three years in the service, he returned to California, resuming his acting passion at the Actors’ Lab.
Phipps’ career really took off in the 1950s where he starred in a string of classic sci-fi movies that helped define the decade, like Five, Cat-Women of the Moon, and The War of the Worlds. According to IMDb, he was one of the first actors in the history of cinema “to become identified with the genre [of science fiction].”
Video of 'War of the Worlds' 1953 White flag scene
Phipps eventually took a hiatus from Hollywood and moved to Hawaii, where he hosted a local television program about classic films. He’d return to the industry after five years and went on to play President Theodore Roosevelt in a TV miniseries as well as narrate a 190-minute television edit of David Lynch’s Dune.
Looking back on his sci-fi projects for Tom Weaver’s book Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews, Phipps said:
“Whatever came along, whether it was Cat-Women of the Moon (1953), The War of the Worlds (1953) or Five (1951), I would stick my toe in the water. If it felt OK, I would do it. I never thought about what any of these would do for my career, never thought ahead to whether it would be a success or what it would do for me… I know I’ve always been a good actor, I know that I am now, and I know I still get work. And I have the respect of my peers. Hey, what more could you ask for?”
Video of The First Sci-Fi Anthology Show | SYFY WIRE