Wendell is the home of a real life movie star. Bernard Mattox was born in 1928 in a yellow, 2-story clapboard house on Academy Street in Wendell, North Carolina. Bernard enjoyed the loving attention he received from his Wendell aunts, uncles, and cousins—the Todds, the Knotts, and the Mattoxes. When he was 6 years old his family moved to Wilson. While growing up in Wilson and going to the Wilson Theatre, he began his life-long love affair with films.
After a stint in the U.S. Army, Bernard “thumbed” from Wilson to Hollywood, California. He spent each night in the local YMCA until he reached California. During his early days he worked as a waiter, shoe clerk, taxi driver, day laborer, and solo singer for funerals and weddings. Greg soon enrolled in a drama school that met at night. A talented agent spotted him in a play and offered to represent him. His agent got him a few bit parts in movies which enabled him to join the Screen Actors Guild. To go along with his now professional status, he changed his name from Bernard Mattox to Gregory Walcott.
His mother in Wilson was a good, Christian woman. She knew that Dale Evans was also a good Christian woman, so she wrote to Dale Evans and told her that her son had moved to Hollywood to break into the movies. She requested some advice from Dale for her son. A few days later, Gregory received a handwritten note from Dale Evans inviting him to the Hollywood Christian Group. This was a group of Christians who worked in the entertainment industry that met weekly at the home of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. When Greg went to this meeting he met Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Rhonda Fleming, and many film technicians. He also met his future wife at one of these meetings.
Greg’s first professional acting experience came with a bit part in Richard Whitmark’s 1951 film, “Red Skies of Montana.” His first important role was in the movie “Battle Cry” in 1954. Greg was mainly a character actor who had an excellent reputation. Some of his more famous movies include “Texas Lady” in 1955 with Claudette Colbert, “Mister Roberts” in 1955 with Henry Fonda, “Eiger Sanction” in 1971 with Clint Eastwood, “Prime Cut” in 1972 with Gene Hackman and Lee Marvin, “Midway” in 1976 with Charlton Heston, “Every Which Way But Loose” in 1978 with Clint Eastwood, “Norma Rae” in 1979 with Sally Fields, and many, many more. In all, Greg appeared in 50 movies. He co-starred with Tony Curtis in 1961 in “The Outsider.” He was the star in the 1967 movie “Bill Wallace in China.” Greg had another famous role with which most movie “buffs” are very familiar. He was in the cockpit scene of the 1957 movie “Plan Nine From Outer Space.” This movie is widely considered the worst movie ever filmed, and it is now a cult classic.
In addition to his 50 movies, Greg also appeared in over 300 television shows. He has acted many times with James Gardner in “Maverick” and Lorne Green in “Bonanza.” He starred in the detective series “87th Precinct.” In later years he worked regularly with Angela Lansbury on “Murder She Wrote.”
Gregory Walcott has worked with most of the major stars of Hollywood and has won critical acclaims as one of the outstanding character actors in Hollywood. By having his work highly respected in the movie industry, he has enjoyed steady employment for many years.
The above information was taken from Gregory Walcott’s book, “Hollywood Adventure—The Gregory Walcott Story.” He sent a copy of his book to the Wendell Historical Society with the inscription, “For the Wendell Historical Society: Wendell, my place of birth…a beloved community. Gregory Walcott (aka) Bernard Mattox.”
by Ray Hinnant – June 5, 2010