Notably seen in a couple of Star Trek episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “The Squire of Gothos” (doing a Liberace sendup), William Campbell appeared in more than 30 features, and nearly 50 television series and movies.
On the big screen, Campbell’s most notable role was probably as San Quentin inmate Whit Whittier, the “Lovers’ Lane Bandit,” in Fred F. Sears’ Cell 2455 Death Row (1955), a competent if uninspired prison drama based on death-row inmate Caryl Chessman’s bestselling autobiography. (Despite worldwide appeals for clemency, Chessman was sent to the gas chamber in 1960.)
Had Cell 2455 Death Row been a sleeper hit, Campbell might have become a star (one of his romantic interests in the film, Kathryn Grant, went on to marry Bing Crosby). As it was, he was stuck with playing leads in B movies and supporting roles in major releases.
Among the former were Abner Biberman’s “lost generation” drama Running Wild (1955), co-starring Mamie Van Doren; Joe Parker’s Eighteen and Anxious (1958), in which a teenager’s life is drastically changed after she becomes pregnant; and Francis Ford Coppola’s horror-thriller Dementia 13 (1963).
Among Campbell’s supporting roles were those in Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), a gripping Western with William Holden and Eleanor Parker; William A. Wellman’s all-star (near-)disaster drama The High and the Mighty (1954), with John Wayne and Robert Stack; Love Me Tender (1956), Elvis Presley’s film debut; and Robert Aldrich’s Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), a highly successful horror melo with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland.
Campbell’s last feature film was Robert Hartford-Davis’ cheapo Black Gunn (1972), starring Jim Brown as the black Gunn of the title.
In the 1950s, Campbell was married to Judith Campbell Exner, known as one of US president John F. Kennedy’s mistresses. Exner was also a close “friend” of mobster Sam Giancana. She died in 1999.
According to the Los Angeles Times obit, Campbell was born in Newark, N.J., on Oct. 30, 1923. Elsewhere, his year of birth is listed as 1926.