Bill Edwards, a tall rodeo rider who turned to acting in the 1940s and later became a painter, died Dec. 21 in Newport Beach of pneumonia after a long struggle against an illness that attacked his muscles. He was 81.
Broken bones brought Edwards’ riding career to a halt, and the 6-foot-5 Edwards became a model in New York City. An agent brought him to Hollywood in the early 1940s.
He was under contract to Paramount Studios for nearly a decade, then turned to art. In addition to Western films, the blond, blue-eyed Edwards had featured roles in “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay” and “Hail the Conquering Hero,” both in 1944.
Born in New Jersey, Edwards began drawing horses as a child and continued drawing as he grew up on a Wyoming ranch. In the 1950s he became a painter and commercial illustrator, creating hundreds of covers for paperback books and designing paper dolls of movie stars.
Some of his oil and acrylic paintings of Old West scenes were commissioned by the Air Force Art Program and have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, the Pentagon and a traveling Air Force exhibit.
He is survived by his wife, Hazel Allen Edwards, and a daughter.