Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dead Celebrity of the Month, July 2006: Ray Walston

Ray Walstons birth on December 2nd 1914 is alternately cited to have occurred in Mississippi or New Orleans, I know that if I had that choice I'd pick 'The Big Easy' over Trent Lotts home state any day. From a young age Ray wanted to be an actor, he started out in spear carrier roles on stage, then on to stock companies and prolonged stays with civic theater groups in Houston and Cleveland, before making it to New York City in the middle 40's. By the mid-1950's Walston was landing some parts on TV anthology series, but continued to concentrate on the stage. In 1955 he won a Tony Award for playing the Devil in Dame Yankees!, after which point his television and film career started in earnest.

Appearances in the film versions of Broadway hits like South Pacific and of course Damn Yankees!, presaged his casting as the amoral insurance executive Joe Dobisch in Billy Wilders The Apartment in 1960. Four years later Wilder cast Walston in a lead role in his comedy Kiss Me Stupid. Despite appering in a few big pictures most of Ray's early 60's screen time was spent in guest roles on television. He landed his own series in 1963, playing lovable 'Uncle Martin' on the sitcom My Favorite Martian, a role he would later regret taking. After Martian left the air in 1966, Ray Walston would spend the rest of his career best known for guest spots on numerous TV shows and the occasional supporting role on film. Sci-fi nerds know him best as Boothbay a character he played on two different Star Trek series. He finally won an Emmy in his 80's for playing the character of Judge Henry Bone on over 60 episodes of the small town cop drama Picket Fences. My favorite Walston character however would have to be Glen Bateman, the retired university professor who survives a deadly plague in the 1994 Steven King mini-series The Stand.

Ray Walston passed away on January first (some sources say second) 2001 from Lupus at his home in Beverly Hills. Walston was married to his wife, the former Ruth Calvert from 1943 until his passing.

A list of just some of the TV shows Ray Walston guest started on during his lengthy career: Studio One, Playhouse 90, Shirley Temple's Storybook, Way Out, Outlaws, Ben Casey, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad, Ironside, Love, American Style, Mission: Impossible, The Rookies, Ellery Queen, The Six Million Dollar Man, Starsky and Hutch, The Incredible Hulk, Little House on the Prairie, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Smurfs (credited as 'additional voices'), Fame, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island, Gimme a Break, Newhart, Night Court, The Love Boat, Trapper John M.D., Amazing Stories, Misfits of Science, Silver Spoons, Simon & Simon, St. Elsewhere, Sledge Hammer!, Murder She Wrote, Friday the 13th, Superboy, L.A. Law, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Eerie Indiana, The Commish, Dave's World, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Ally McBeal, 7th Heaven, and just a few months before his death Touched by an Angel.


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