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Walter Huston: Learn more about him, review his filmography and more
Walter Huston was born in Toronto, Ontario on April 5, 1883 He was the son of Elizabeth (née McGibbon) and Robert Moore Huston. He had a brother and two sisters, one of whom was the theatrical voice coach Margaret Carrington (1877–1941).
As a young man, he worked in construction and in his spare time attended the Shaw School of Acting. He made his stage debut in 1902. He went on to tour in In Convict Stripes, a play by Hal Reid, father of Wallace Reid and also appeared with Richard Mansfield in Julius Caesar. He again toured in another play The Sign of the Cross. In 1904, he married Rhea Gore (1882–1938) and gave up acting to work as a manager of electric power stations in Nevada, Missouri. He maintained these jobs until 1909.
In 1909, his marriage foundering, he appeared with an older actress named Bayonne Whipple (1865–1937). They were billed as Whipple and Huston and, in 1915, they married. Vaudeville was their livelihood into the 1920s.
Huston began his Broadway career on January 22, 1924. He appeared in a play, Mr. Pitt. Several more Broadway plays solidified his fame, e.g., Desire Under the Elms, Kongo, The Barker, Elmer the Great and Dodsworth.
Once talkies began in Hollywood, he achieved fame in both character roles and as a leading man. His first major role was portraying the villainous Trampas in the western The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper.
He starred as the title character in the Broadway theatrical adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s novel Dodsworth in 1934 and the play’s film version two years later. For his role as Sam Dodsworth, Huston won the New York Critic’s Circle Award for Best Actor and was nominated for the Academy Award.
Huston remained busy throughout the 1930s and 1940s, both on stage and screen (becoming one of America’s most distinguished actors). He performed “September Song” in the original Broadway production of Knickerbocker Holiday in 1938. Among his films are Abraham Lincoln (1930), Rain (1932), Gabriel Over the White House (1933), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and Mission to Moscow (1943), a pro-Soviet World War II propaganda film as Ambassador Joseph E. Davies.
In 1941, Walter Huston portrayed the part of the ship’s captain, who is shot while delivering the black bird to Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. This was an uncredited performance. Walter’s son, John Huston, directed the picture. John, as a practical joke, had his father enter the scene and die in more than 10 different takes.
In 1948, he played Howard in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was also directed by his son, John Huston. The film was based on B. Traven’s novel, which told the story of three gold diggers in 1920s post-revolution Mexico. Walter Huston won the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film, while John Huston won the Best Director Academy Award, thus making them the first father and son to win at the same ceremony.
In the 1950 release of the film entitled, “September Affair”, starring Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten, Walter Huston sang the title song in the movie. “September Song” was a very popular romantic tune during the 1950s and ’60s. He had originally appeared in the Broadway show “Knickerbocker Holiday”, where he debuted the song. His last film was the 1950 western The Furies with Barbara Stanwyck.
Along with Anthony Veiller, he narrated the Why We Fight series of World War II documentaries directed by Frank Capra.
On April 7, 1950, two days after his 67th birthday, Huston died of an aortic aneurysm in his hotel suite in Beverly Hills. He was cremated and his ashes were buried at Belmont Memorial Park in Fresno, California.