Walter Pidgeon

Walter Pidgeon

Birth name: Walter Davis Pidgeon
Born: September 23, 1897
Died: September 25, 1984 (at age 87)
Birthplace: Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Walter Davis Pidgeon (September 23, 1897 - September 25, 1984) was a Canadian-American actor. He earned two Academy Award for Best Actor nominations for his roles in Mrs. Miniver (1942) and Madame Curie (1943). Pidgeon also starred in many films such as How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Forbidden Planet (1956), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), Advise & Consent (1962), Funny Girl (1968), and Harry in Your Pocket (1973).

He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1975.

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Pidgeon was the son of Hannah (née Sanborn), a housewife, and Caleb Burpee Pidgeon, a haberdasher.[1] His brother, Larry, was an editorial writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press.[citation needed]

Pidgeon received his formal education in local schools and the University of New Brunswick, where he studied Law and Drama. His university education was interrupted by World War I when he volunteered with the 65th Battery, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. He never saw action, however, as he was severely injured in an accident when he was crushed between two gun carriages and spent seventeen months in a military hospital. Following the war, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked as a bank runner, at the same time studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music.[2]


Discontented with banking, Pidgeon moved to New York City, where he walked into the office of E.E. Clive, announced that he could act and sing and could prove it. After acting on stage for several years, he made his Broadway debut in 1925. Pidgeon made a number of silent films in the 1920s. He became a huge star with the arrival of talkies, thanks to his singing voice. He starred in extravagant early Technicolor musicals, including The Bride of the Regiment (1930), Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930), Viennese Nights (1930) and Kiss Me Again (1931). He became associated with musicals, and when the public grew weary of them his career began to falter.[citation needed]

In 1935 he took a break from Hollywood and did a stint on Broadway, appearing in the plays Something Gay, Night of January 16th, and There's Wisdom in Women. When he returned to movies, he was relegated to playing secondary roles in films like Saratoga and The Girl of the Golden West. One of his better known roles was in The Dark Command, where he portrayed the villain (loosely based on American Civil War guerrilla William C. Quantrill) opposite John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and a young Roy Rogers.

Pidgeon with Teresa Wright and Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver (1942)

It was not until he starred in the Academy Award-winning Best Picture How Green Was My Valley (1941) that his popularity returned. He then starred opposite Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor) and its sequel, The Miniver Story in 1950. He was also nominated in 1944 for Madame Curie, again opposite Garson. His partnership with her continued throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s with Mrs. Parkington (1944), Julia Misbehaves (1948), That Forsyte Woman (1949), and finally Scandal at Scourie (1953). He also starred as Chip Collyer in the comedy Week-End at the Waldorf (1945) and later as Colonel Michael S. 'Hooky' Nicobar, who was given the difficult task of repatriating Russians in post-World War II Vienna in the drama film The Red Danube (1949).

Although he continued to make films, including The Bad and the Beautiful and Forbidden Planet, Pidgeon returned to work on Broadway in the mid-1950s after a 20-year absence. He was featured in Take Me Along with Jackie Gleason and received a Tony Award nomination for the musical play. In 1962, he portrayed General Augustus Perry in the episode "The Reunion" on CBS's Rawhide. He continued making films, playing Admiral Harriman Nelson in 1961's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, James Haggin in Walt Disney's Big Red (1962), and the Senate Majority Leader in Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent. His role as Florenz Ziegfeld in Funny Girl (1968) was well received. Later, he played Casey, James Coburn's sidekick, in Harry in Your Pocket (1973).

Pidgeon guest-starred in the episode "King of the Valley" (November 26, 1959) of CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. Pidgeon played Dave King, a prosperous rancher who quarrels with his banker over a $10,000 loan. When the banker dies of a heart attack on the job after a confrontation with King, it is discovered that the bank is missing $50,000. Leora Dana plays Anne Coleman, the banker's widow and the rancher's former paramour. The banker lost the funds with a bad investment, but the irate and uninformed townspeople are blaming King.[3]

His other television credits included Breaking Point, The F.B.I., Marcus Welby, M.D., and Gibbsville. In 1963 he guest-starred as corporate attorney Sherman Hatfield in the fourth of four special episodes of Perry Mason while Raymond Burr was recovering from surgery. In 1965, he played the king in Rodgers and Hammerstein's CBS TV movie production of Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren. Pidgeon was active in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and served as president from 1952-57. He tried to stop the production of Salt of the Earth, which was made by a team that had been blacklisted during the Red Scare[citation needed]. Pidgeon retired from acting in 1977.[4]

Pidgeon became a United States citizen on December 24, 1943.[5]


Pidgeon died on September 25, 1984 in Santa Monica, California, two days after his 87th birthday following a series of strokes.[6] He bequeathed his body to the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine for the furtherance of medical science.[citation needed] He died eight days after Richard Basehart, his TV counterpart in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.


Walter Pidgeon has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6414 Hollywood Blvd.

Personal life

Pidgeon married twice. In 1919, he wed the former Edna Muriel Pickles, who died in 1921 during the birth of their daughter, also named Edna.[7] In 1931, Pidgeon married his secretary, Ruth Walker, to whom he remained married until his death.


A Republican, in 1944, he joined other celebrity Republicans at a rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum arranged by David O. Selznick in support of the Dewey−Bricker ticket as well as Governor Earl Warren of California, who would be Dewey's running mate in 1948. The gathering drew 93,000, with Cecil B. DeMille as the master of ceremonies and short speeches by Hedda Hopper and Walt Disney. Despite the good turnout at the rally, most Hollywood celebrities who took a public position sided with the Roosevelt-Truman ticket.[8]

Complete filmography

  • Mannequin (1926) as Martin Innesbrook
  • The Outsider (1926) as Basil Owen
  • Old Loves and New (1926) as Clyde Lord Geradine
  • Miss Nobody (1926) as Bravo
  • Marriage License? (1926) as Paul
  • The Heart of Salome (1927) as Monte Carroll
  • Sumuru (1927) as Paul Sinclair
  • The Thirteenth Juror (1927) as Richard Marsden
  • The Gorilla (1927) as Stevens
  • The Gateway of the Moon (1928) as Arthur Wyatt
  • Woman Wise (1928) as United States Consul
  • Turn Back the Hours (1928) as Philip Drake
  • Clothes Make the Woman (1928) as Victor Trent
  • Melody of Love (1928) as Jack Clark
  • The Voice Within (1929)
  • Her Private Life (1929) as Ned Thayer
  • A Most Immoral Lady (1929) as Tony Williams
  • Showgirl in Hollywood (1930) as Himself - Premiere Emcee (uncredited)
  • Bride of the Regiment (1930) as Col. Vultow
  • Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930) as Lord Varney
  • The Gorilla (1930) as Arthur Marsden
  • Viennese Nights (1930) as Franz von Renner
  • Going Wild (1930) as 'Ace' Benton
  • Kiss Me Again (1931) as Paul de St. Cyr
  • The Hot Heiress (1931) as Clay
  • Rockabye (1932) as Al Howard
  • The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) as Lucy's Lover
  • Journal of a Crime (1934) as Florestan
  • Good Badminton (1934 short) as Walter
  • Big Brown Eyes (1936) as Richard Morey
  • Fatal Lady (1936) as David Roberts
  • She's Dangerous (1937) as Dr. Scott Logan
  • Girl Overboard (1937) as Paul Stacey
  • As Good as Married (1937) as Fraser James
  • Saratoga (1937) as Hartley Madison
  • My Dear Miss Aldrich (1937) as Ken Morley
  • A Girl with Ideas (1937) as Mickey McGuire
  • Man-Proof (1938) as Alan Wythe
  • The Girl of the Golden West (1938) as Jack Rance
  • The Shopworn Angel (1938) as Sam Bailey
  • Too Hot to Handle (1938) as William O. "Bill" Dennis
  • Listen, Darling (1938) as Richard Thurlow
  • Society Lawyer (1939) as Christopher Durant
  • 6,000 Enemies (1939) as Steve Donegan
  • Stronger Than Desire (1939) as Tyler Flagg
  • Nick Carter, Master Detective (1939) as Nick Carter / Robert Chalmers
  • I Take This Woman (1940) as Phil Mayberry (scenes deleted)
  • The House Across the Bay (1940) as Tim
  • It's a Date (1940) as John Arlen
  • Dark Command (1940) as William 'Will' Cantrell
  • Phantom Raiders (1940) as Nick Carter
  • Sky Murder (1940) as Nick Carter
  • Flight Command (1940) as Squadron Cmdr. Billy Gary
  • Man Hunt (1941) as Captain Alan Thorndike
  • Blossoms in the Dust (1941) as Sam Gladney
  • How Green Was My Valley (1941) as Mr. Gruffydd
  • Design for Scandal (1941) as Jeff Sherman
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942) as Clem Miniver
  • White Cargo (1942) as Harry Witzel
  • The Youngest Profession (1943) as himself
  • Madame Curie (1943) as Pierre Curie
  • Mrs. Parkington (1944) as Major Augustus 'Gus' Parkington
  • Week-End at the Waldorf (1945) as Chip Collyer
  • Holiday in Mexico (1946) as Jeffrey Evans
  • The Secret Heart (1946) as Chris Matthews
  • Cass Timberlane (1947) as Himself - Party Guest (uncredited)
  • If Winter Comes (1947) as Mark Sabre
  • Julia Misbehaves (1948) as William Sylvester Packett
  • Command Decision (1948) as Major General Roland Goodlow Kane
  • The Red Danube (1949) as Col. Michael S. "Hooky" Nicobar
  • That Forsyte Woman (1949) as Young Jolyon Forsyte
  • The Miniver Story (1950) as Clem Miniver
  • Soldiers Three (1951) as Col. Brunswick
  • Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951) as Maj. Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond
  • Quo Vadis (1951) as Narrator (voice, uncredited)
  • The Unknown Man (1951) as Dwight Bradley Masen
  • The Sellout (1952) as Haven D. Allridge
  • Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) as Frederick Kellerman
  • The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) as Harry Pebbel
  • Scandal at Scourie (1953) as Patrick J. McChesney
  • Dream Wife (1953) as Walter McBride
  • Executive Suite (1954) as Frederick Y. Alderson
  • Men of the Fighting Lady (1954) as Comdr. Kent Dowling
  • The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) as James Ellswirth
  • Deep in My Heart (1954) as J.J. Shubert
  • Hit the Deck (1955) as Rear Adm. Daniel Xavier Smith
  • The Glass Slipper (1955) as Narrator (voice, uncredited)
  • Forbidden Planet (1956) as Dr. Morbius
  • These Wilder Years (1956) as James Rayburn
  • The Rack (1956) as Col. Edward W. Hall, Sr.
  • Swiss Family Robinson (1958 TV movie) as Father
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1959 TV movie) as Mr. Alonzo Smith
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) as Adm. Harriman Nelson
  • Advise and Consent (1962) as Senate Majority Leader
  • Big Red (1962) as James Haggin
  • The Two Colonels (1963) as Colonello Timothy Henderson
  • The Shortest Day (1963) as Ernest Hemingway (uncredited)
  • Anniversary (1963) as Narrator
  • Mr. Kingston (1964 TV movie)
  • Cinderella (1965 TV movie) as King
  • How I Spent My Summer Vacation (1967 TV movie) as Lewis Gannet
  • Warning Shot (1967, TV movie) as Orville Ames
  • The Vatican Affair (1968) as Il professore Herbert Cummings - un studioso illustre di cose vaticane
  • Funny Girl (1968) as Florenz Ziegfeld
  • Rascal (1969) as Sterling North (voice)
  • House on Greenapple Road (1970 TV movie) as Mayor Jack Parker
  • The Mask of Sheba (1970 TV movie) as Dr. Max van Condon
  • The Screaming Woman (1972 TV movie) as Dr. Amos Larkin
  • Skyjacked (1972) as Sen. Arne Lindner
  • The Neptune Factor (1973) as Dr. Samuel Andrews
  • Harry in Your Pocket (1973) as Casey
  • Live Again, Die Again (1974 TV movie) as Thomas Carmichael
  • The Girl on the Late, Late Show (1974 TV movie) as John Pahlman
  • Yellow-Headed Summer (1974) (rumored)
  • You Lie So Deep, My Love (1975 TV movie) as Uncle Joe Padway
  • Murder on Flight 502 (1975 TV movie) as Charlie Parkins
  • The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976 TV movie) as Judge Trenchard
  • Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) as Grayson's Butler
  • Two-Minute Warning (1976) as The Pickpocket
  • Sextette (1978) as The Chairman

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Lux Radio Theatre Mrs. Parkington[9]
1946 Lux Radio Theatre Together Again[10]
1952 Screen Guild Theatre "Heaven Can Wait"[11]
1953 Lux Radio Theatre The People Against O'Hara[12]
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[ Source: Wikipedia ]