……….Ray Walston: A Career of Versatility and Flair
Ray Walston’s diverse career evolved into earning him an acclaimed reputation not only as a skilled interpreter of character parts, but as a performer who graced both stage and screen with a variety of memorable roles. Proficient in playing characters ranging from the realm of fantasy to musical theatre and from whimsical comedy to thought-provoking drama, Ray Walston’s career encompassed a broad spectrum of genre.
Mr.Walston entered the acting profession in Houston Texas, a member of the Margo Jones Repertory Company and from there worked three years in the Cleveland Playhouse before moving to New York City where he began his career on Broadway. His intensive stage background eventually led to his Broadway debut in Maurice Evans’ GI Hamlet and then The Front Page in 1947. Other roles included parts in Richard III and The Rat Race. His first major supporting role was in 1948, appearing in the Tennessee Williams play Summer and Smoke which earned him the Clarence Derwent Award and the Variety Drama Critics Award for Most Promising Male Newcomer of 1948.
In 1949 Mr. Walston became a member of Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio.
His association with musical comedy began when Rodgers and Hammerstein were putting together the national company South Pacific and Ray Walston was cast in the role of Navy Seabee Luther Billis. He would play the character for over two years in both the Chicago company of the musical and then on the London West End stage.
In 1953 Ray Walston returned to Broadway, appearing as Mac the Stage Manager in another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical called Me and Juliet. The following year he was in Truman Capote’s play, House of Flowers. Then in 1955, legendary producer/writer/director George Abbott cast Ray Walston in the musical Damn Yankees as Mr. Applegate, a Devil with a businessman's disposition who convinces a baseball fan to sell his soul for a chance to help the Washington Senators win the pennant from the New York Yankees. Mr. Walston received the 1956 Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical. The hit show which starred Gwen Verdon (who also won a Tony as Best Lead Actress in Musical) had a two year run on Broadway.
------------.. …………………………………………from "Damn Yankees" (with Gwen Verdon)…….photos: Friedman-Abeles
Following Damn Yankees, Ray Walston appeared in the Broadway comedy, Who Was That Lady? before moving to Los Angeles to work in films. While in Los Angeles, Mr.Walston continued to be active on the stage by founding the Theatre East acting workshop.
….He returned to Broadway in 1966 appearing in another George Abbott comedy about horse players in Agatha Sue, I Love You.
"Agatha Sue, I Love You""….. (photos: Friedman-Abeles)
In the 1970s and 1980s Ray Walston continued his work on the stage in regional theatre around the country, appearing in plays ranging from The Canterbury Tales and Oliver! to You Know I Can’t Hear You When The Water’s Running. During this period Mr. Walston also took on the added responsibility as a director, including directing a revival of Damn Yankees with Gwen Verdon which played in both New York and Washington DC. Ray Walston performed in Theatre East revivals of Damn Yankees (1982) and South Pacific.(1983) in San Diego. On the 1971 25th Anniversary Tony Awards television show, Ray Walston re-enacted his roles from South Pacific and Damn Yankees. In 1982 he performed his solo song from Damn Yankees "Those Were the Good Old Days", on the PBS TV special, The Best of Broadway.
"Best of Broadway" PBS 1982
Ray Walston made his film debut in a supporting role in 1957’s Kiss Them For Me which starred Cary Grant. He then recreated two of his stage roles for film, first as Luther Billis in Joshua Logan’s South Pacific (1958) and then as Mr. Applegate opposite Gwen Verdon as Lola in the movie adaptation of Damn Yankees (1958)
as Seabee Luther Billis…….…….…………………………………………………………Mr. Applegate strikes a deal in "Damn Yankees".
(In 1991 Ray Walston hosted an hour special for the Disney Channel on the making of the movie South Pacific).
Other film appearances followed, in Say One For Me with Bing Crosby, (1959),Tall Story,(1960) Portrait in Black (1960), and in Billy Wilder’s 1961 Academy Award winning film, The Apartment.
in "Say One For Me"….... from "The Apartment"
Mr. Walston co-starred in a number of early 60s films, included Convicts 4 (1962) Wives and Lovers (1963), and Who’s Minding the Store? (1963). In 1964 Ray Walston starred in another Billy Wilder film, Kiss Me, Stupid, as aspiring songwriter and jealous husband, Orville J. Spooner.
……………. in "Kiss Me, Stupid"
In 1967 he appeared in Caprice as a cosmetic scientist and in 1968 he again worked with director Joshua Logan, being featured in the role of a Gold Rush forty-niner, Mad Jack Duncan, in Paint Your Wagon, a movie musical adapted from the Broadway show.
as Dr. Clancy in spy comedy "Caprice"…….. …as Mad Jack in "Paint Your Wagon"
In 1973 Ray Walston appeared in another Academy Award winning film The Sting where he played con artist JJ Singleton.
He also played a gangster in Silver Streak (1976) and in 1980 Ray Walston had a supporting role as Pappy in Robert Altman’s musical version of Popeye. In 1982 he was cast as the indomitable high school teacher Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a role he would reprise in 1986 for the TV series.
.in "Popeye"………… …….… as Mr.Hand
…As a precursor of roles to come, in 1987 he appeared as a judge in From the Hip, a film written by David E. Kelley who would later create the 1992 TV series Picket Fences, in which Ray Walston would play the character of Judge Bone.
A much critically praised role came in 1990 when Ray Walston portrayed the elderly ranch hand, Candy, in a film version of John Steinbeck’s classic book, Of Mice and Men.
Concurrent with appearing on Broadway, Ray Walston performed on live television beginning in 1949 in Suspense and then Danger! followed by numerous productions such as, You Are There (D-Day, Dillinger), Studio One, Producer’s Showcase ("State of the Union"), Hallmark Hall of Fame ("There Shall Be No Night") and Music From Shubert Alley (1959). Other early 60s TV appearances included Ben Casey, Adventures in Paradise (1961) Going My Way (1962), The Danny Kaye Show (1965) and a 1964 TV play, The Man Who Bought Paradise.
In 1963 Ray Walston starred as an anthropologist from Mars who was "..marooned on this backward planet.." in My Favorite Martian. The character of the Martian, becoming known by his Earth alias of Uncle Martin, would bring Ray Walston to the attention of huge television audiences when it premiered in the 1963-64 TV season on CBS. The role offered a welcome alternative to the stereotyped concepts of space aliens as invaders due to Mr. Walston’s congenial and wry characterization.
After My Favorite Martian ended its run in 1966, Mr.Walston made numerous guest starring appearances on many popular TV series of the next two decades, including Wild, Wild West, Mission Impossible, Starsky & Hutch, My World and Welcome To It, and Love, American Style. In 1978 he co-starred in NBC’s serial adventure Stop Susan Williams!
…. "The Wild, Wild West"….. "Love, American Style"
A well-remembered 1979 TV guest appearance was his role as vaudeville magician Jasper Dowd in The Incredible Hulk, which reunited him opposite "Martian" co-star Bill Bixby in an episode aptly titled "My Favorite Magician".
Ray Walston appeared in a 1982 TV Movie based on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and in a 1984 he played a hobo in TV Movie sequel to the comedy film, The Jerk, Too. Mr.Walston co-starred in a 1985 landmark TV film starring Kirk Douglas entitled Amos, which dealt with residents’ rights in a nursing home.
as Diesel the Hobo in "The Jerk, Too""…… in "Amos"
…..He had a recurring role as Matt the Bellhop in the TV adaptations of children’s author Beverly Cleary’s trilogy of fantasy novels, The Mouse on the Motorcycle, Ralph S. Mouse and Runaway Ralph.
In 1986’s TV version of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ray Walston again recreated a role he had originated, that of the strict and well-respected high school history teacher, Mr. Hand.
………..………...from the TV series "Fast Times…"
…He played a private detective on Matt Houston and also guest starred in 3 episodes of Silver Spoons in 1985
in "Silver Spoons"
In 1986 Ray Walston did a three week guest star stint as a high school teacher in the daytime drama, Santa Barbara. Other notable appearances in many TV series included LA LAW, St. Elsewhere, Newhart, Fantasy Island, Trapper John: MD, Murder, She Wrote; Fame (as a retired song & dance man), Little House on the Prairie, Sledge Hammer (where he met Bill Bixby on the set as Bill was preparing to direct the next episode of Sledge), Simon & Simon and Night Court.
playing a jovial judge on "Night Court" (1984)
"The Commish" TV series, in a Halloween episode… …..in "Fame"
In the TV series Gimmie a Break, Ray Walston re-united with his Damn Yankees co-star Gwen Verdon in an episode designed as a 1984 pilot of a new series, "The Center"
"The Center" pilot show
In recognition for his many notable roles in the sci-fi genre, Mr.Walston received the 1988 Saturn award for Life Achievement in the Field of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. Aside from the devilish Mr Applegate from Damn Yankees and Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian, the award acknowledged his roles in the sci-fi genre both in television (The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rodgers, The Misfits of Science) and in film: Popeye, and Roger Corman’s Galaxy of Terror, among others.
Continuing to appear in sci-fi genre projects, Ray Walston had a recurring role in the realm of Star Trek, playing the Starfleet Academy’s wise groundskeeper Boothby in both Star Trek: The Next Generation(1992) and later in Star Trek: Voyager. (1998)
as Boothby in ST:TNG
Other TV fantasy program appearances included Friday the 13th and Eerie, Indiana (playing an alien stranded on Earth since 1908) He co-starred in the 1994 mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand as Glen Bateman. His sci-fi connection made him sought after for cameo appearances in TV’s Project Alf and the 1999 Disney movie based on his "Martian" series.
"Buck Rogers" 1979 ..as a stranded alien in TV series "Eerie, Indiana"
.…as Boothby (or is he?) in "ST: Voyager"…. as Glen Bateman in "The Stand"
And keeping a sci-fi in-joke running for viewers, Ray did a 1994 commercial for AT&T playing a fellow inquiring about long distance rates to Martians living in the USA. "Bottom-line it for me-!!"
In 1992 Ray Walston took on the role of Judge Henry Bone in David E. Kelley’s Emmy Award winning series, Picket Fences, which was set in the fictional small town of Rome, Wisconsin. Mr. Walston’s characterization of Judge Bone, who often interpreted the law with precision and unfailing wisdom, drew wide critical praise.
.as Judge Henry Bone on "Picket Fences"..
……"..And now...Get out!"…….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..Dealing with Douglas Wambaugh for the defense.
…rendering a decision based on "Bone’s Law"
As the dynamic and level-headed judge who endured personal trauma off the bench, Mr. Walston received a Best Actor Award from the Viewers for Quality Television in 1994 as well as 3 Emmy Nominations, winning two Emmys for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1995 and 1996. The Hollywood community also honored Mr. Walston’s career by bestowing a star for him on Hollywood Boulevard.
1995 Emmy…. …………..1996 Emmy
After Picket Fences, Ray again played a judge in the TV comedy series Dave’s World as well as in the 1999 TV Movie Swing Vote which dealt with the Supreme Court in crisis. He worked on another David E. Kelley series, Ally McBeal guest-starring as a minister. He starred in a 1997 TV Movie The Westing Game in which he played a series of disguised characters.
..on "Ally McBeal"…… ………... "The Westing Game"
Mr.Walston continued to guest star on such TV series as 7th Heaven, Dr.Quinn: Medicine Woman, and Touched by an Angel.
Bringing a distinctive style and art to his acting performances, Ray Walston created a wide array of popular characters on stage, screen and television, much to the appreciation and admiration of generations of audiences.
The Society for Interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy website
A detailed list of Mr.Walston’s screen acting credits can be found on the
Internet Movie Database
A tribute to Mr.Walston on the website of the film"Paradise"
YouTube has a 1949 kinescope telecast of the TV drama"Suspense" featuring Mr.Walston
The Paley Center for Media in New York City has the following programs
featuring Mr. Walston:
Playhouse 90 "Shadows Tremble"
Producer’s Showcase "State of the Union"
Hallmark Hall of Fame "There Shall Be No Night"
My Favorite Martian (*In Archive Collection)
25th Annual Tony Awards
Way Out Anthology Series
Music From Shubert Alley
The AT&T Commercial*
*can also be seen on YouTube
Additional photo credits: Top photo (CBS); B/W; MFM #2 © Jack Chertok Productions; Fast Times at Ridgemont High b/w: (CBS); MFM #3 TV GUIDE; The Incredible Hulk b/w; Buck Rodgers; FastTimes (film)b/w: (Universal Studios), Star on Hollywood Blvd : (AP)
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