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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 Awards 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).
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," the 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 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.
Walter Pidgeon has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6414 Hollywood Blvd.
|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|
- Foster, Charles (2003). Once upon a time in paradise : Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Toronto: Dundurn Group. pp. 233–250. ISBN 1-55002-464-7.
- Parish, James Robert; Mank, Gregory W. (April 1981). The Hollywood Reliables. Arlington House. p. 147. ISBN 978-0870004308.
- Foster, Charles. "The Gentleman from Saint John". new-brunswick.net. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
...using the money he earned, he entered the Boston Conservatory of Music.
- Walter Davis Pidgeon's Petition for Naturalization as a United States Citizen, ancestry.com; accessed November 17, 2015.
- Jordan, David M. (2011). FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. pp. 231–32. ISBN 978-0253356833.
- "Walter Pidgeon—Biography". NorthernStars.ca (The Canadian Movie Database). Archived from the original on December 3, 2020. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
- Berger, Joseph (September 26, 1984). "Walter Pidgeon, Actor, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
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. ...
- "'Lux' Guest". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 23, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved September 13, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "'Together Again' With Irene Dunn [sic] Next 'Lux' Drama". Harrisburg Telegraph. December 7, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved September 12, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kirby, Walter (April 6, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 52. Retrieved May 16, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kirby, Walter (March 8, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved June 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
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