Oscar Directors: Walters, Charles–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

August 19, 2020

Charles Walters Career Summary:

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Charles Walters (November 17, 1911 – August 13, 1982) was a Hollywood director and choreographer noted for his MGM musicals and comedies from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Charles Walters was born in Pasadena, California and educated at Anaheim Union High School (Class of 1930) and briefly attended the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Shortly after graduating high school in 1931 Walters joined a touring Fanchon & Marco revue as a chorus boy and specialty dancer. After keeping a correspondence with producer, dancer and choreographer Leonard Sillman, Sillman agreed to cast Walters in a Broadway bound revue called Low and Behold (1933) which also featured future stars Tyrone Power, Eve Arden and Kay Thompson. The modestly successful show never reached Broadway, but producer Charles Dillingham happened to catch the show before it closed and hired Sillman as a producer and Walters as a performer for a new Broadway revue called New Faces of 1934 spotlighting up and coming talent. Walters had a few dance numbers with Imogene Coca which drew good notices for both. The show proved a success and Sillman again hired Walters and Coca for another show entitled ‘’Fools Rush In’’ which flopped. Walters and Sillman parted ways following the fiasco but both remained good friends until Walters’s death.

On Broadway he danced in Parade (1935) with frequent partner Dorothy Fox, and the Cole Porter-Moss Hart Jubilee (1935) where he introduced “Begin the Beguine”. Walters appeared in the popular revue The Show is On (1937), directed by Vincente Minnelli, then was in Between the Devil (1937–38) and I Married an Angel (1938).

Walters was credited as choreographer on the Broadway show Sing Out the News (1938–39).

He appeared in Cole Porter’s popular Du Barry Was a Lady (1939–40), then choreographed a more popular Porter work, Let’s Face It! (1941–43). He did the dances for Banjo Eyes (1941–42), and worked on the “dance ensembles” for RKO’s Seven Days’ Leave (1942).

Walters went to MGM under contract as dance director. Among the movies he worked on were Presenting Lily Mars (1943) (where he danced with Judy Garland at the end), Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), Best Foot Forward (1943) and Girl Crazy (1943) (where he again danced with Garland, in “Embraceable You”).

Walters also worked on Broadway Rhythm (1944) and did uncredited choreography on Gaslight (1944) and Since You Went Away (1944). He then did Meet the People (1944), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), and Thrill of a Romance (1945). Walters was dance director on Ziegfeld Follies (1945) and also did uncredited directing of the segment “A Great Lady Has an Interview”. He directed a ten-minute short Spreadin’ the Jam (1946). He did choreography for Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945), Week-End at the Waldorf (1945), Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood (1945) (in which he appeared), Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), and Summer Holiday (shot 1946, released 1948).

He returned to Broadway to choreograph St. Louis Woman (1946).

Walters’ first credited directorial effort was the musical Good News (1947) with June Allyson and Peter Lawford. He then did a big one for the studio, Easter Parade (1948) with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, which was a mammoth hit for the studio, earning a profit of over $5 million, establishing Walters as a director.

Walters was meant to reteam with Astaire and Garland in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), but the latter fell ill and was replaced by Ginger Rogers. Walters then directed Garland and Gene Kelly in Summer Stock (1950).

He followed this with his first non-musical comedy Three Guys Named Mike (1951), then the Esther Williams vehicle Texas Carnival (1951). Walters went to Broadway to direct Garland’s appearance at the Palace (1951–52) which ran for 266 performances. He went back to Hollywood to do The Belle of New York (1952), which starred Astaire and Vera-Ellen, and was a notable flop.

He received a Best Director Oscar nomination for the 1953 film Lili, starring Leslie Caron, for which Caron was also Oscar nominated. Walters did another two with Williams, Dangerous When Wet (1953) and Easy to Love (1953). In between these he tried his first drama, Torch Song (1953) with Joan Crawford.

Walters and Caron tried to repeat the success of Lili with The Glass Slipper (1955), but it was not as popular. However a Frank Sinatra-Debbie Reynolds comedy, The Tender Trap, (1955) was well liked, as was the Bing Crosby-Sinatra-Grace Kelly musical High Society (1956).

Walters directed popular comedies, Don’t Go Near the Water (1957) with Glenn Ford, Ask Any Girl (1959) with Shirley MacLaine and David Niven, and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) with Doris Day and Niven.

He also helped choreograph the number “The Night They Invented Champagne” in Gigi (1958) and did some uncredited directing on Cimarron (1960) and Go Naked in the World (1961).

Walters then had two flops, Two Loves (1962) with MacLaine and Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962).

He recovered with The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), which earned Debbie Reynolds her only Oscar nomination.

Walters’ last theatrical film was for Columbia, Walk, Don’t Run (1966), which was the last film for Cary Grant.

He continued to work in television, doing episodes of The Governor & J.J. and Here’s Lucy. He directed Lucille Ball in two TV movies, Three for Two (1975) with Jackie Gleason, and What Now, Catherine Curtis? (1976).

Brent Phillips’ book, Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance, illuminates Walters’ private life as a gay man.

Walters died from lung cancer at the age of 70 in Malibu, California.

Filmography Director

Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Good News (1947)
Easter Parade (1948)
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

Annie Get Your Gun (1950) (uncredited)
Summer Stock (1950)
Three Guys Named Mike (1951)
Texas Carnival (1951)
The Belle of New York (1952)
Lili (1953)
Dangerous When Wet (1953)
Torch Song (1953)
Easy to Love (1953)
The Glass Slipper (1955)
The Tender Trap (1955)
High Society (1956)
Don’t Go Near the Water (1957)
Gigi (1958) (uncredited)
Ask Any Girl (1959)

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960)
Cimarron (1960) (uncredited)
Go Naked in the World (1961) (uncredited)
Two Loves (1961)
Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)
Walk, Don’t Run (1966)

Presenting Lily Mars (1943) – Lily’s Dance Partner in Finale (uncredited)
Girl Crazy (1943) – Student (uncredited)
Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945) – Sailor (uncredited)
Lili (1953) – Dance double for Jean-Pierre Aumont (uncredited)
Torch Song (1953) – Ralph Ellis (uncredited)
Easy to Love (1953) – Nightclub Dancer with Cyd Charisse (uncredited, last appearance)


Phillips, Brent. Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813147215.