For the silent film actor, see Billy Gilbert. For other people with the name, see William Gilbert. William Billy Gilbert was an American comedian and actor known for his comic sneeze routines and he appeared in over 200 feature films, short subjects and television shows starting in 1929. Born in Kentucky, the child of singers with the Metropolitan Opera, he was born in a room at the Hopkins Opera House in Louisville. Gilbert began working in vaudeville at the age of 12, Gilbert was spotted by Stan Laurel, who was in the audience of Gilberts show Sensations of 1929. Laurel went backstage to meet Gilbert and was so impressed by him he introduced him to comedy producer Hal Roach. Gilbert was employed as a gag writer, actor and director, Gilbert broke into comedy short subjects with the Vitaphone studio in 1930 – he appears without billing in the Joe Frisco comedy The Happy Hottentots, recently restored and released on DVD. Gilberts burly frame and gruff voice made him a comic villain. He appeared in support of Roachs comedy stars Laurel and Hardy, Charley Chase, Thelma Todd, one of his Laurel and Hardy appearances was the 1932 Academy Award-winning featurette The Music Box. Gilbert generally played blustery tough guys in the Roach comedies, but could play other comic characters, Gilberts skill at dialects prompted Roach to give him his own series, big Billy Gilbert teamed with little Billy Bletcher as the Dutch-comic Schmaltz Brothers. In offbeat musical shorts like Rhapsody in Brew, like many other Roach contractees, Gilbert found similar work at other studios. He appears in the comedies of the Three Stooges at Columbia Pictures. These led to featured roles in films, so that from 1934 on Gilbert became one of the screens most familiar faces. One of his standard routines had Gilbert progressively getting excited or nervous about something and he used this bit so frequently that Walt Disney thought of him immediately when casting the voice of Sneezy in 1937s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Gilbert and Disney would later work again in Mickey and the Beanstalk. Gilbert did the routine in a memorable cameo in the Paramount comedy Million Dollar Legs starring W. C. Fields, Jack Oakie, Susan Fleming, and Ben Turpin, Gilbert is prominent in most of the movies he appeared in. He appeared as Herring - a parody of Nazi official Hermann Göring - the minister of war in Charlie Chaplins The Great Dictator and he was also the soda server to Freddie Bartholomew in Captains Courageous
Gilbert in 1954
Gilbert as Friar Tuck and Red Skelton as Robin Hood in this Red Skelton Show 1956 sketch.