Walter Davis Pidgeon
September 23, 1897
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
|Died||September 25, 1984 (aged 87)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Education||University of New Brunswick|
Edna Muriel Pickles
(m. 1919; died 1926)
|10th President of the Screen Actors Guild|
|Preceded by||Ronald Reagan|
|Succeeded by||Leon Ames|
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.
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, as a lieutenant in the 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. His Officer Attestation states he was born in 1895 and further medical records state 1896. Following the war, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked as a bank runner, at the same time studying voice at the Boston Conservatory of Music.
While he was performing in amateur theatricals in Boston, Pidgeon was recommended to Elsie Janis, a prominent producer-actor-singer and impresario who was looking for a male singer for her revue. She hired him and Pidgeon moved to New York City in 1923. There he "managed to get an interview with E. E. Clive", a British producer then working on Broadway. Though his Broadway debut is often reported as 1925, in his chapter on Pidgeon in Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood (2003), Charles Foster quotes an interview with Pidgeon in which the actor corrects the date. "[Clive] was producing You Never Can Tell on Broadway, and despite my having a total lack of professional experience, he gave me a small role." Pidgeon made his first featured Broadway debut in Janis' 1925 revue, Puzzles of 1925.
Pidgeon's success in Elsie Janis' shows created a rift between them, leading to Pidgeon's eventual dismissal—and his decision to head to Hollywood. After his first film, Mannequin, a silent drama (1925), Pidgeon went to make a number of silent films in the 1920s. Discouraged with the quality of the roles he was getting, Pidgeon returned to New York in 1928 to resume his theater career. It was with the arrival of the talkies that Pidgeon's movie career began its ascent, thanks to his singing voice. He starred in extravagant early Technicolor musicals, including Bride of the Regiment (1930), Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930), Viennese Nights (1930) and Kiss Me Again (1931). Pidgeon continued to be in demand in singing roles through the 1930s, before making the transition to dramatic roles. 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 in 1937, it was as a dramatic actor, often cast in featured supporting roles in films like Saratoga (1937) and The Girl of the Golden West (1938). One of his better known roles was in Dark Command (1940), where he portrayed the villain (loosely based on American Civil War guerrilla William Quantrill) opposite John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and a young Roy Rogers.
It was not until he starred in the Academy Award-winning Best Picture How Green Was My Valley (1941) that his popularity reached its height. 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 (1950). He was also nominated for Madame Curie (1943), 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 (1952) and Forbidden Planet (1956), 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. 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 Theatre. Pidgeon played Dave King, a prosperous rancher who quarrels with his banker over a $10,000 loan.
His other television credits included Rawhide ("The Reunion", 1962). 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 television production of Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren. Pidgeon retired from acting in 1977.
Pidgeon became a United States citizen on December 24, 1943.
A Republican, in 1944, he joined other celebrity Republicans at a massive 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.
Pidgeon married twice. In 1919, he wed the former Edna Muriel Pickles of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, who died in 1926 during the birth of their daughter, also named Edna. In 1931, Pidgeon married his secretary, Ruth Walker, to whom he remained married until he died.
Pidgeon died on September 25, 1984, in Santa Monica, California, two days after his 87th birthday following a series of strokes. He died eight days after Richard Basehart (his TV counterpart in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) did.
Walter Pidgeon has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6414 Hollywood Blvd.
|1926||Mannequin||Martin Innesbrook||James Cruze|
|1926||The Outsider||Basil Owen||Rowland V. Lee|
|1926||Old Loves and New||Clyde Lord Geradine||Maurice Tourneur|
|1926||Miss Nobody||Bravo||Lambert Hillyer|
|1927||The Heart of Salome||Monte Carroll||Victor Schertzinger|
|1927||The Girl from Rio||Paul Sinclair||Tom Terriss|
|1927||The Thirteenth Juror||Richard Marsden|
|1927||The Gorilla||Stevens||Alfred Santell|
|1928||The Gateway of the Moon||Arthur Wyatt||John Griffith Wray|
|1928||Woman Wise||United States Consul||Albert Ray|
|1928||Turn Back the Hours||Philip Drake||Howard Bretherton|
|1928||Clothes Make the Woman||Victor Trent||Tom Terriss|
|1928||Melody of Love||Jack Clark||Arch Heath|
|1929||The Voice Within|
|1929||Her Private Life||Ned Thayer||Alexander Korda|
|1929||A Most Immoral Lady||Tony Williams||John Griffith Wray|
|1930||Showgirl in Hollywood||Himself – Premiere Emcee (uncredited)||Mervyn LeRoy|
|1930||Bride of the Regiment||Col. Vultow||John Francis Dillon|
|1930||Sweet Kitty Bellairs||Lord Varney||Alfred E. Green|
|1930||The Gorilla||Arthur Marsden||Bryan Foy|
|1930||Viennese Nights||Franz von Renner||Alan Crosland|
|1930||Going Wild||'Ace' Benton||William A. Seiter|
|1931||Kiss Me Again||Paul de St. Cyr||William A. Seiter|
|1931||The Hot Heiress||Clay||Clarence G. Badger|
|1932||Rockabye||Al Howard||George Cukor|
|1933||The Kiss Before the Mirror||Lucy's Lover||James Whale|
|1934||Journal of a Crime||Florestan||William Keighley|
|1936||Big Brown Eyes||Richard Morey||Raoul Walsh|
|1936||Fatal Lady||David Roberts||Edward Ludwig|
|1937||She's Dangerous||Dr. Scott Logan||Lewis R. Foster|
|1937||Girl Overboard||Paul Stacey||Sidney Salkow|
|1937||As Good as Married||Fraser James||Edward Buzzell|
|1937||Saratoga||Hartley Madison||Jack Conway|
|1937||My Dear Miss Aldrich||Ken Morley||E. J. Babille (assistant)|
|1937||A Girl with Ideas||Mickey McGuire||S. Sylvan Simon|
|1938||Man-Proof||Alan Wythe||Richard Thorpe|
|1938||The Girl of the Golden West||Jack Rance||Robert Z. Leonard|
|1938||The Shopworn Angel||Sam Bailey||H.C. Potter|
|1938||Too Hot to Handle||William O. "Bill" Dennis||Jack Conway|
|1938||Listen, Darling||Richard Thurlow||Edwin L. Marin|
|1939||Society Lawyer||Christopher Durant||Edwin L. Marin|
|1939||6,000 Enemies||Steve Donegan||George B. Seitz|
|1939||Stronger Than Desire||Tyler Flagg||Leslie Fenton|
|1939||Nick Carter, Master Detective||Nick Carter / Robert Chalmers||Jacques Tourneur|
|1940||I Take This Woman||Phil Mayberry (scenes deleted)|
|1940||The House Across the Bay||Tim||Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)|
|1940||It's a Date||John Arlen||William A. Seiter|
|1940||Dark Command||William 'Will' Cantrell||Raoul Walsh|
|1940||Phantom Raiders||Nick Carter||Jacques Tourneur|
|1940||Sky Murder||Nick Carter||George B. Seitz|
|1940||Flight Command||Squadron Cmdr. Billy Gary||Frank Borzage|
|1941||Man Hunt||Captain Alan Thorndike||Fritz Lang|
|1941||Blossoms in the Dust||Sam Gladney||Mervyn LeRoy|
|1941||How Green Was My Valley||Mr. Gruffydd||John Ford|
|1941||Design for Scandal||Jeff Sherman||Norman Taurog|
|1942||Mrs. Miniver||Clem Miniver||William Wyler|
|1942||White Cargo||Harry Witzel||Richard Thorpe|
|1943||The Youngest Profession||himself||Edward Buzzell|
|1943||Madame Curie||Pierre Curie||Mervyn LeRoy|
|1944||Mrs. Parkington||Major Augustus 'Gus' Parkington||Tay Garnett|
|1945||Week-End at the Waldorf||Chip Collyer||Robert Z. Leonard|
|1946||Holiday in Mexico||Jeffrey Evans||George Sidney|
|1946||The Secret Heart||Chris Matthews||Robert Z. Leonard|
|1947||Cass Timberlane||Himself – Party Guest (uncredited)||George Sidney|
|1947||If Winter Comes||Mark Sabre||Victor Saville|
|1948||Julia Misbehaves||William Sylvester Packett||Jack Conway|
|1948||Command Decision||Major General Roland Goodlaw Kane||Sam Wood|
|1949||The Red Danube||Col. Michael S. "Hooky" Nicobar||George Sidney|
|1949||That Forsyte Woman||Young Jolyon Forsyte||Compton Bennett|
|1950||The Miniver Story||Clem Miniver||H.C. Potter|
|1951||Soldiers Three||Col. Brunswick||Tay Garnett|
|1951||Calling Bulldog Drummond||Maj. Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond||Victor Saville|
|1951||Quo Vadis||Narrator (voice, uncredited)||Mervyn LeRoy|
|1951||The Unknown Man||Dwight Bradley Masen||Richard Thorpe|
|1952||The Sellout||Haven D. Allridge||Gerald Mayer|
|1952||Million Dollar Mermaid||Frederick Kellerman||Mervyn LeRoy|
|1952||The Bad and the Beautiful||Harry Pebbel||Vincente Minnelli|
|1953||Scandal at Scourie||Patrick J. McChesney||Jean Negulesco|
|1953||Dream Wife||Walter McBride||Sidney Sheldon|
|1954||Executive Suite||Frederick Y. Alderson||Robert Wise|
|1954||Men of the Fighting Lady||Comdr. Kent Dowling||Andrew Marton|
|1954||The Last Time I Saw Paris||James Ellswirth||Richard Brooks|
|1954||Deep in My Heart||J.J. Shubert||Stanley Donen|
|1955||Hit the Deck||Rear Adm. Daniel Xavier Smith||Roy Rowland|
|1955||The Glass Slipper||Narrator (voice, uncredited)||Charles Walters|
|1956||Forbidden Planet||Dr. Morbius||Fred M. Wilcox|
|1956||These Wilder Years||James Rayburn||Roy Rowland|
|1956||The Rack||Col. Edward W. Hall, Sr.||Arnold Laven|
|1958||Swiss Family Robinson||Father|
|1959||* Meet Me in St. Louis (1959, TV Movie) as Mr. Alonzo Smith||Mr. Alonzo Smith|
|1961||Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea||Adm. Harriman Nelson||Irwin Allen|
|1962||Advise and Consent||Senate Majority Leader||Otto Preminger|
|1962||Big Red||James Haggin||Norman Tokar|
|1963||The Two Colonels||Colonello Timothy Henderson||Steno|
|1963||The Shortest Day||Ernest Hemingway (uncredited)||Sergio Corbucci|
|1967||How I Spent My Summer Vacation||Lewis Gannet|
|1967||Warning Shot||Orville Ames||Buzz Kulik|
|1968||The Vatican Affair||Il professore Herbert Cummings - un studioso illustre di cose vaticane||Emilio Miraglia|
|1968||Funny Girl||Florenz Ziegfeld||William Wyler|
|1969||Rascal||Sterling North (voice)||Norman Tokar|
|1970||House on Greenapple Road||Mayor Jack Parker||Robert Day|
|1970||The Mask of Sheba||Dr. Max van Condon||David Lowell Rich|
|1972||The Screaming Woman||Dr. Amos Larkin||Jack Smight|
|1972||Skyjacked||Sen. Arne Lindner||John Guillermin|
|1973||The Neptune Factor||Dr. Samuel Andrews||Daniel Petrie|
|1973||Harry in Your Pocket||Casey||Bruce Geller|
|1974||Live Again, Die Again||Thomas Carmichael||Richard A. Colla|
|1974||The Girl on the Late, Late Show||John Pahlman||Gary Nelson|
|1975||You Lie So Deep, My Love||Uncle Joe Padway||David Lowell Rich|
|1975||Murder on Flight 502||Charlie Parkins||George McCowan|
|1976||The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case||Judge Trenchard||Buzz Kulik|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Grayson's Butler||Michael Winner|
|1976||Two-Minute Warning||The Pickpocket||Larry Peerce|
|1978||Sextette||The Chairman (final film role)||Ken Hughes|
|1946||Lux Radio Theatre||Mrs. Parkington|
|1946||Lux Radio Theatre||Together Again|
|1952||Screen Guild Theatre||"Heaven Can Wait"|
|1953||Lux Radio Theatre||The People Against O'Hara|
...using the money he earned, he entered the Boston Conservatory of Music.
Walter Pidgeon, the courtly actor who distinguished his 47-year career with portrayals of men who prove both sturdy and wise, died yesterday at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87 years old and had suffered a series of strokes. ...