Oscar Actors: Pidgeon, Walter–Background, Career, Awards

November 25, 2020
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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. His brother, Larry, was an editorial writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press. A sister died of Pulmonary Phthisis.

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 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 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 (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 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 (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 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 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 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]

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. Despite the good turnout at the rally, most Hollywood celebrities who took a public position sided with the Roosevelt-Truman ticket.[6]

Personal life
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.[7] 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.[8] 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.

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
The Girl from Rio (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 Goodlaw 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 (final film role)