Ray Walston

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Ray Walston
My Favorite Martian Ray Walston 1963.JPG
Herman Raymond Walston

(1914-11-02)November 2, 1914
DiedJanuary 1, 2001(2001-01-01) (aged 86)
Other names
  • Herman Raymond Walston
  • Herman Ray Walston
  • Raymond Walston
OccupationActor, comedian
Years active1945–2001
Ruth Calvert (m. 1943)

Herman Raymond Walston (November 2, 1914 – January 1, 2001) was an American actor and comedian, well known as the title character on My Favorite Martian. His major film, television, and stage roles included 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), Glen Bateman (The Stand), and Judge Henry Bone (Picket Fences).[1]

Early life[edit]

Walston was born on November 2, 1914, in Laurel, Mississippi, the second son and youngest of three children born to lumberjack Harry Norman Walston (1881–1946) and Mittie (née Kimball) Walston (December 25, 1883–August 16, 1950).[2][3] He had an older sister, Carrie (1906–1982), and an older brother, Earl (February 4, 1908 – December 4, 1998). His family moved from Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana, around 1925.

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 he joined a repertory theater company under Margo Jones in 1938.[4]


Stage work[edit]

Walston was popular with Margo Jones' 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 Maurice Evans's The G.I. Hamlet. Three years later, Walston became one of the first members admitted to the newly formed Actors Studio.[5]

In 1949, he appeared in the short-lived play Mrs. Gibbons' Boys, directed by George Abbott, who later cast him as Satan (who bore the name "Mr. Applegate") 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.

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. He 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.[6]

Film and television work[edit]

Walston reprised his role in the 1958 film version of Damn Yankees.[1] His other films included 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, Silver Streak, and Get a Clue. Walston landed one of the three leading roles in Billy Wilder's comic farce Kiss Me, Stupid opposite Dean Martin and Kim Novak because, after six weeks of filming, Peter Sellers had to withdraw from the cast due to a heart attack.

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.[7] He guest starred on numerous television programs, including The Shirley Temple Show, The Outlaws, The Americans, and a television version of Going My Way.

My Favorite Martian[edit]

Walston as Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian, 1963

Walston achieved his greatest success as the title character (Uncle Martin) on My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. The two immediately became close friends.[8] Although the show gained a large audience in syndication, My Favorite Martian typecast Walston and he had difficulty finding serious roles after the show's cancellation. He returned to character actor status in the 1970s and 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 Bixby, in which Walston played Jasper the Magician in an episode called "My Favorite Magician".

Television comeback[edit]

Walston as Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982

From 1980–1992, Walston starred in 14 films, including Galaxy of Terror and 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.[9]

Walston as Boothby, 1992

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 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 a twist of fate Beltran had starred in the role of Luther Billis while in high school [10]

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 1988, he guest starred in an episode of the popular horror-fantasy show Friday the 13th: the Series, as a bitter, elderly comic-book artist who uses a demonically cursed comic book to transform himself into a killer robot and murder his erstwhile enemies. 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.[11]

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[citation needed] on November 3, 1943.[12][13] The couple had one daughter, Katharine Ann.[4]

Later years[edit]

In 1994, Walston was diagnosed with lupus and as a result, his career began winding down.[14] 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.[15]

Walston played Grandfather Walter Addams in Addams Family Reunion (1998). The next year, he appeared in the movie remake of his hit series, My Favorite Martian (1999) in the role of Armitan. He appeared in the Touched by an Angel episode, "The Face on the Barroom Floor",[16] which aired on October 15, 2000.[17]

Walston made a cameo in the 7th Heaven episode, "One Hundred",[18] 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.


On January 1, 2001, Walston died at age 86 at his home in Beverly Hills, California, six years after being diagnosed with lupus. He was cremated and the ashes given to his daughter.[1]

Select TV/film appearances[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gussow, Mel (January 3, 2001). "Ray Walston, Broadway Star And TV Martian, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-20. Ray Walston, who won a Tony Award for playing the Devil opposite Gwen Verdon in the Broadway musical Damn Yankees repeated his role in the film version and went on to a long career playing eccentric, oddly endearing characters in movies and on television, died on Monday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 86
  2. ^ "Birth certificate for Herman Ray Walston". State of Mississippi. August 9, 1951.
  3. ^ The New York Times obituary states "Mr. Walston was born in New Orleans", which is contradicted by his Mississippi birth certificate and the 1920 United States Census. The certificate was issued in 1951 and was based on the presentation of his school records from 1925 showing his date of birth as "November 2, 1914" and place of birth as "Mississippi". An identification card was also used as evidence, which also used "Mississippi" as his place of birth. The Social Security Death Index, and his Social Security application filed in November of 1936, both use "November 2, 1914" as his date of birth. Some sources use the incorrect "December 2, 1914".
  4. ^ a b "Ray Walston Biography". Biography. A&E. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  5. ^ Dick Kleiner: "The Actors Studio: Making Stars Out of the Unknown", The Sarasota Journal (December 21, 1956), p. 26. "That first year, they interviewed about seven hundred actors and picked fifty. In that first group were people like Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Tom Ewell, John Forsythe, Julie Harris, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, E. G. Marshall, Margaret Phillips, Maureen Stapleton, Kim Stanley, Jo Van Fleet, Eli Wallach, Ray Walston and David Wayne."
  6. ^ "Me And Juliet". Me And Juliet - Broadway Musical. Internet Broadway Database. Archived from the original on 24 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Operation HARDTACK Military Effects Studies: Underwater Tests: United States Department of Defense: Free Download & Streaming". Archive.org. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  8. ^ http://members.tripod.com/~jhh_2/interview.htm
  9. ^ "Judge Gives Walston a Measure of Justice". Los Angeles Times Collections. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 23 February 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  10. ^ "2012 Star Trek Voyager Panel - Saturday - 2:30P (52:30)". Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Ray Walston List of Movies and TV Shows". TV Guide. Archived from the original on 24 February 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  12. ^ Palmer, Ann (Jun 20, 2014). Letters to the Dead: Things I Wish I'd Said. CCB Publishing. p. 109. ISBN 9781771431262.
  13. ^ Who's who in Entertainment, Volume 1. Marquis Who's Who, Inc. 1989. p. 668.
  14. ^ Masterworksbroadway.com
  15. ^ 1995 AT&T commercial featuring Ray Walston on YouTube
  16. ^ The Face on the Barroom Floor: Walston appears around 6:15 on YouTube
  17. ^ Ray Walston profile at movieactors.com
  18. ^ 7th Heaven: "One Hundred", in which Walston makes a cameo on YouTube

External links[edit]