Bill Walsh (producer)

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William Crozier "Bill" Walsh (September 30, 1913 – January 27, 1975) was a comic author, film producer and screenwriter who primarily worked on live-action films for Walt Disney Productions. He was born in New York City. For his work on Mary Poppins, he shared Academy Award nominations for Best Picture with Walt Disney, and for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium with Don DaGradi. He died in Los Angeles and was interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

In 1970 an article in Variety listed him as the second most successful film producer of all time in terms of money-earning movies even though he was "a guy no one's ever heard of".[1]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Walsh was born in 1913 to immigrant parents in New York. He was raised in Cincinnati by his aunt and uncle, Agnes and William Newman. He played football at Purcell and wrote sports for the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. In 1934 he accepted a University of Cincinnati athletic scholarship.[2]

Early career[edit]

While at UC, Walsh produced a freshman show that happened to be seen by Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay who were passing through town in a show, Tattle Tales. They hired Walsh at $12 a week to rewrite the show, which went to Broadway where it ran for five weeks. Walsh then followed Stanwyck and Fay to Hollywood. He worked as a press agent for 15 years at the Ettinger Company and started writing jokes as a sideline on the suggestion of client Edgar Buchanan.[2]

Disney[edit]

He joined the Disney company in 1943 as a press agent and began writing Mickey Mouse comics as a sideline.[3] "Mickey Mouse was very dull and kind of stupid," Walsh later said. "Donald Duck was the one I liked. He had complete licence. He had pizzaz."[1]

Television[edit]

In the late 1940s Disney put Walsh in charge of their television operations. He wrote and produced television specials, starting with One Hour in Wonderland (1950).

Walsh produced a number of huge successes, including Davy Crockett (1954–55) and The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-59). He also wrote the feature The Littlest Outlaw (1955) and produced a number of serials that aired as part of The Mickey Mouse Club, including Spin and Marty, Corky and White Shadow, The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, Adventure in Dairyland, The Adventures of Clint and Mac, and Walt Disney Presents: Annette.

He moved up to features in 1959.[4]

Features[edit]

Walsh wrote and produced The Shaggy Dog (1959) with Fred MacMurray, Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. A fantasy comedy made for relatively little money it was a huge hit and became the most profitable Disney film of all time. The same team then made Toby Tyler (1959), a circus film that was well received critically though not as popular.

Walsh wrote and produced a series of comedies starring MacMurray and Kirk, all very popular: The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), a fantasy; Bon Voyage! (1962), an Americans-abroad family comedy, also with Corcoran; and Son of Flubber (1963), a sequel to Absent Minded Professor. He provided the story for The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), a fantasy comedy with Kirk.

Walsh co wrote the musical Mary Poppins' (1964) which became the most popular movie Disney ever released. He wrote it with Don DaGradi who would be Walsh's most regular collaborator - Walsh normally worked with a co-writer, or supervised other writers.[5]

Walsh wrote and produced That Darn Cat! (1965), Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966) and Blackbeard's Ghost (1968).

Post-Walt Disney[edit]

After Disney's death in 1967 Walsh was part of the seven man committee who ran the company.[6]

He wrote and produced The Love Bug which was a huge success.[7]

In 1970 Walsh said "I make movies for people between the ages of nine and fourteen. It's a very intelligent and very honest audience... Also I don't make personal statements; I make movies hoping they'll make money so I'll be able to make more movies. I'm a schlock hack and I glory in it. My folks had a tent show and if you tried to make personal statements for audiences in Kentucky and Tennessee they'd burn the tent down."[1] He said he never wanted to direct because "I have flat feet... you have to get up too early" and "you have to talk to actors."[1]

He wrote and produced Scandalous John (1971) which he said was his favourite film even though it was the only one to have lost money.[5] Far more popular was Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).

In 1971 Walsh said his main contributions to the films were "fantasy... I have nutty ideas which any other studio would throw me the hell on the street for but which are very compatible here".[5]

His later films included The World's Greatest Athlete (1973), Herbie Rides Again (1974) and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975).

Walsh died of a heart attack in 1975. He was survived by his daughter and two sons.[2]

Filmography[edit]

Comics[edit]

Walsh scripted the Mickey Mouse daily comic strip drawn by Floyd Gottfredson from 1944 until 1964. He found it an enjoyable collaboration and only his heavy workload finally forced him to give it up. One of the continuities he wrote before the strip became gag-a-day was reprinted in Gladstone Comic Album No. 17 (1989) as Mickey Mouse and the World of Tomorrow.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d WEST VIEW BY BURT PRELUTSKY: Superhack Los Angeles Times 20 Dec 1970: w6.
  2. ^ a b c Bill Walsh, 61, Movie Writer, Producer, Dies Los Angeles Times 28 Jan 1975: a19.
  3. ^ BILL WALSH, 61, DIES; A DISNEY PRODUCER New York Times 29 Jan 1975: 35.
  4. ^ Disney on TV: A reminiscence of how it all began Walsh, Bill. Los Angeles Times 29 Dec 1974: k29.
  5. ^ a b c Mr. Success, Spelled W-A-C-K-Y, of Disney's Fantasy Factory Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 5 Dec 1971: z32.
  6. ^ Disney After Disney: Roy & the Seven Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times 28 May 1967: k8.
  7. ^ IN DISNEY'S 'LOVE BUG': VW Whirs on Fantasy-Humor Track Savoy, Maggie. Los Angeles Times 18 Mar 1969: g1.

External links[edit]