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Birth name Herman WalstonNationality USABirth 2 december 1914
at New Orleans (USA
)Death 1 january 2001
(at 86 years) at Beverly Hills (USA
Herman Raymond "Ray" Walston (November 2, 1914 – January 1, 2001) was an American actor and comedian, best known as the title character on My Favorite Martian. He had such iconic film, television and stage roles as Luther Billis (South Pacific), Mr. Applegate (Damn Yankees), J.J. Singleton (The Sting), Mr. Hand (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Candy (Of Mice and Men), and Judge Henry Bone (Picket Fences).
On January 1, 2001, Walston died of lupus in his Beverly Hills, California home at age 86.
Herman Raymond Walston was born on November 2, 1914 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the second son and youngest child of lumberjack Harry Norman (1881–19??) and Mittie (née Kimball) Walston (December 25, 1883–August 16, 1950). He had an older sister, Carrie (1907–19??), and an older brother, Earl (February 4, 1908–December 4, 1998).
He started acting at an early age, beginning his tenure as a "spear carrier" rounding out productions at many New Orleans theaters. He mostly played small roles with stock companies, where he not only starred in traveling shows but also worked at a movie theater, selling tickets and cleaning the stage floors. His family moved to Dallas, Texas, where, in 1938, he joined a repertory theater company under Margo Jones.
Walston was popular with Margo Jones's team of actors before he traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, where he spent three years with the Cleveland Play House. He then traveled to New York City, where he made his Broadway debut in a 1945 production of Hamlet. Three years later, he became one of the first members admitted to the newly formed Actors Studio.
In 1949, he appeared in the short-lived play Mrs. Gibbons' Boys directed by George Abbott, who later cast him as Satan in the 1955 musical Damn Yankees opposite Gwen Verdon as his sexy aide Lola. The chemistry between the two was such that they both garnered critical success and won awards for their roles. After a decade in New York theater, he won a Tony Award, and he and Verdon were invited to reprise their roles in the 1958 film version. He starred as Luther Billis in the 1951 London production of South Pacific. He reprised that role in the 1958 film adaptation. He and Juanita Hall (as Bloody Mary) were the only cast members to appear in both the stage and movie versions. Additional Broadway credits included The Front Page, Summer and Smoke, King Richard III, Wish You Were Here, and House of Flowers. In 1957, Actress and Producer Katharine Cornell placed him in a role on Broadway in Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize winning play about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, There Shall Be No Night. The play was adapted for television for a Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Walston had a prominent role in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Me and Juliet, portraying the stage manager of the musical-within-the-musical, but his character did not participate in any of the musical numbers.
Film and television work
Walston had a successful movie career aside from Damn Yankees!, including such films as Kiss Them for Me, South Pacific, Say One for Me, Tall Story; Portrait in Black, The Apartment, Convicts 4, Wives and Lovers, Who's Minding the Store?, Kiss Me, Stupid, Caprice, Paint Your Wagon, The Sting, and Silver Streak.
He narrated many United States Department of Defense and Atomic Energy Commission (now United States Department of Energy) films about nuclear experiment, including the Operation Hardtack I nuclear test film series of 1958. He guest starred on numerous television programs, including The Outlaws, The Americans, and a television version of Going My Way.
My Favorite Martian
Walston achieved his greatest success as the title character (Uncle Martin) on My Favorite Martian from 1963–66, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. Although the show gained a large audience in syndication, My Favorite Martian typecasted Walston and he had difficulty finding serious roles after the show's cancellation. He returned to character actor status in the 1970s/80s, and guest starred in such series as Custer, The Wild Wild West, Love, American Style, The Rookies, Mission: Impossible, Ellery Queen, The Six Million Dollar Man, Little House on the Prairie, and The Incredible Hulk, again with Bill Bixby, in which Walston played Jasper the Magician in an episode called "My Favorite Magician". In 1976, he played Edgar Whiney in Silver Streak.
From 1980–1992, Walston starred in fourteen movies, including 1981's Galaxy of Terror, and 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High (as well as the 1986 television adaptation) as Mr. Hand. In a 1999 interview, Walston said that he was happy and relieved that when he walked down the street, young fans shouted at him "Mr. Hand" because he had finally torn away from his Martian role. In 1984, Walston played a judge on an episode of Night Court. Six years later, he made a guest appearance on an episode of L.A. Law. He later was hired for the role of Judge Henry Bone on Picket Fences; the character was originally a recurring role, but Walston proved to be so popular the character was later upgraded to a starring role.
He made an appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Boothby, head groundskeeper at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco, and he reprised the character twice on Star Trek: Voyager, despite the series being set in a distant part of the galaxy. (The first time, he actually played an alien participating in a simulation of the Academy; the second appearance was in a dream sequence.) During his appearance on Star Trek: Voyager in "In the Flesh", he often had trouble with remembering his lines during long one-shot dialogue scenes, but while the cameraman was changing the film for the scene in the briefing room, he quoted a line from Hamlet. Robert Beltran then quoted the next line, and Walston the next. The two went on for several minutes, amazing the entire cast and crew.
In 1985, Walston made a brief appearance in the opening credits of Steven Spielberg's series Amazing Stories, as a caveman acting out a story for his tribe. Only a few seconds long, this performance began every episode of the subsequent series. In 1992, Walston played the role of Candy in the big-screen remake of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men with Gary Sinise and John Malkovich. He would work alongside Sinise again two years later in the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand.
Walston was nominated three times for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on Picket Fences, winning twice, in 1995 and 1996. CBS cancelled the show after four seasons in 1996. Walston made a guest appearance in an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman entitled "Remember Me", in which he portrayed the father of Jake Slicker, who was stricken with Alzheimer's disease.
Walston married Ruth Calvert (March 15, 1916–January 26, 2004), a great-granddaughter of former Governor Oran Roberts of Texas –on November 3, 1943. The couple had one daughter, Katharine Ann.
Walston was diagnosed with lupus in 1994, and his career began winding down thereafter. He appeared in an AT&T long distance TV commercial in 1995, in which his dialogue implied he was Uncle Martin from Mars, looking for good rates to talk to fellow Martians living in the United States.
Walston played Grandfather Walter Addams in the Addams Family Reunion (1998), a reboot to the blockbuster 1991 film The Addams Family. The next year, he appeared in the movie remake of his hit series, My Favorite Martian (1999). He appeared in the Touched By An Angel episode, The Face on the Barroom Floor, which aired on October 15, 2000.
Walston made a cameo in the 7th Heaven episode, One Hundred, which aired on January 29, 2001, 28 days after his death. His final movie role was in the independent film, Early Bird Special, which was released later that year.
Walston died at 86 on January 1, 2001 at his home in Beverly Hills, California, six years after being diagnosed with lupus. He was survived by his wife, daughter, and two grandchildren. He was cremated, and his ashes given to his daughter.