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Walter Pidgeon
Pidgeon on Perry Mason (1963)
Walter Davis Pidgeon

(1897-09-23)September 23, 1897
Died September 25, 1984(1984-09-25) (aged 87)
Education University of New Brunswick
Occupation Actor
Years active 1925–1977
Political party Republican
Edna Muriel Pickles
(m. 1919; died 1926)

Ruth Walker
(m. 1931)
Children 1
10th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
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 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.

Early life

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Pidgeon was the son of Hannah (née Sanborn), a housewife, and Caleb Burpee Pidgeon, a haberdasher.

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", a 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 with 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.

Greer teresa pidgeon miniverpic
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 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.

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. 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) did.

Walter Pidgeon has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6414 Hollywood Blvd.

Complete filmography

Year Film Role Director Notes
1926 Mannequin Martin Innesbrook James Cruze
1926 The Outsider Basil Owen Rowland V. Lee
1926 Old Loves and New Clyde Lord Geradine Maurice Tourneur
1926 Miss Nobody Bravo Lambert Hillyer
1926 Marriage License? Paul
1927 The Heart of Salome Monte Carroll Victor Schertzinger
1927 The Girl from Rio Paul Sinclair Tom Terriss
1927 The Thirteenth Juror Richard Marsden
1927 The Gorilla Stevens Alfred Santell
1928 The Gateway of the Moon Arthur Wyatt John Griffith Wray
1928 Woman Wise United States Consul Albert Ray
1928 Turn Back the Hours Philip Drake Howard Bretherton
1928 Clothes Make the Woman Victor Trent Tom Terriss
1928 Melody of Love Jack Clark Arch Heath
1929 The Voice Within
1929 Her Private Life Ned Thayer Alexander Korda
1929 A Most Immoral Lady Tony Williams John Griffith Wray
1930 Showgirl in Hollywood Himself – Premiere Emcee (uncredited) Mervyn LeRoy
1930 Bride of the Regiment Col. Vultow John Francis Dillon
1930 Sweet Kitty Bellairs Lord Varney Alfred E. Green
1930 The Gorilla Arthur Marsden Bryan Foy
1930 Viennese Nights Franz von Renner Alan Crosland
1930 Going Wild 'Ace' Benton William A. Seiter
1931 Kiss Me Again Paul de St. Cyr William A. Seiter
1931 The Hot Heiress Clay Clarence G. Badger
1932 Rockabye Al Howard George Cukor
1933 The Kiss Before the Mirror Lucy's Lover James Whale
1934 Journal of a Crime Florestan William Keighley
1934 Good Badminton Walter
1936 Big Brown Eyes Richard Morey Raoul Walsh
1936 Fatal Lady David Roberts Edward Ludwig
1937 She's Dangerous Dr. Scott Logan Lewis R. Foster
1937 Girl Overboard Paul Stacey Sidney Salkow
1937 As Good as Married Fraser James Edward Buzzell
1937 Saratoga Hartley Madison Jack Conway
1937 My Dear Miss Aldrich Ken Morley E. J. Babille (assistant)
1937 A Girl with Ideas Mickey McGuire S. Sylvan Simon
1938 Man-Proof Alan Wythe Richard Thorpe
1938 The Girl of the Golden West Jack Rance Robert Z. Leonard
1938 The Shopworn Angel Sam Bailey H.C. Potter
1938 Too Hot to Handle William O. "Bill" Dennis Jack Conway
1938 Listen, Darling Richard Thurlow Edwin L. Marin
1939 Society Lawyer Christopher Durant Edwin L. Marin
1939 6,000 Enemies Steve Donegan George B. Seitz
1939 Stronger Than Desire Tyler Flagg Leslie Fenton
1939 Nick Carter, Master Detective Nick Carter / Robert Chalmers Jacques Tourneur
1940 I Take This Woman Phil Mayberry (scenes deleted)
1940 The House Across the Bay Tim Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
1940 It's a Date John Arlen William A. Seiter
1940 Dark Command William 'Will' Cantrell Raoul Walsh
1940 Phantom Raiders Nick Carter Jacques Tourneur
1940 Sky Murder Nick Carter George B. Seitz
1940 Flight Command Squadron Cmdr. Billy Gary Frank Borzage
1941 Man Hunt Captain Alan Thorndike Fritz Lang
1941 Blossoms in the Dust Sam Gladney Mervyn LeRoy
1941 How Green Was My Valley Mr. Gruffydd John Ford
1941 Design for Scandal Jeff Sherman Norman Taurog
1942 Mrs. Miniver Clem Miniver William Wyler
1942 White Cargo Harry Witzel Richard Thorpe
1943 The Youngest Profession himself Edward Buzzell
1943 Madame Curie Pierre Curie Mervyn LeRoy
1944 Mrs. Parkington Major Augustus 'Gus' Parkington Tay Garnett
1945 Week-End at the Waldorf Chip Collyer Robert Z. Leonard
1946 Holiday in Mexico Jeffrey Evans George Sidney
1946 The Secret Heart Chris Matthews Robert Z. Leonard
1947 Cass Timberlane Himself – Party Guest (uncredited) George Sidney
1947 If Winter Comes Mark Sabre Victor Saville
1948 Julia Misbehaves William Sylvester Packett Jack Conway
1948 Command Decision Major General Roland Goodlaw Kane Sam Wood
1949 The Red Danube Col. Michael S. "Hooky" Nicobar George Sidney
1949 That Forsyte Woman Young Jolyon Forsyte Compton Bennett
1950 The Miniver Story Clem Miniver H.C. Potter
1951 Soldiers Three Col. Brunswick Tay Garnett
1951 Calling Bulldog Drummond Maj. Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond Victor Saville
1951 Quo Vadis Narrator (voice, uncredited) Mervyn LeRoy
1951 The Unknown Man Dwight Bradley Masen Richard Thorpe
1952 The Sellout Haven D. Allridge Gerald Mayer
1952 Million Dollar Mermaid Frederick Kellerman Mervyn LeRoy
1952 The Bad and the Beautiful Harry Pebbel Vincente Minnelli
1953 Scandal at Scourie Patrick J. McChesney Jean Negulesco
1953 Dream Wife Walter McBride Sidney Sheldon
1954 Executive Suite Frederick Y. Alderson Robert Wise
1954 Men of the Fighting Lady Comdr. Kent Dowling Andrew Marton
1954 The Last Time I Saw Paris James Ellswirth Richard Brooks
1954 Deep in My Heart J.J. Shubert Stanley Donen
1955 Hit the Deck Rear Adm. Daniel Xavier Smith Roy Rowland
1955 The Glass Slipper Narrator (voice, uncredited) Charles Walters
1956 Forbidden Planet Dr. Morbius Fred M. Wilcox
1956 These Wilder Years James Rayburn Roy Rowland
1956 The Rack Col. Edward W. Hall, Sr. Arnold Laven
1958 Swiss Family Robinson Father
1959 * Meet Me in St. Louis (1959, TV Movie) as Mr. Alonzo Smith Mr. Alonzo Smith
1961 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Adm. Harriman Nelson Irwin Allen
1962 Advise and Consent Senate Majority Leader Otto Preminger
1962 Big Red James Haggin Norman Tokar
1963 The Two Colonels Colonello Timothy Henderson Steno
1963 The Shortest Day Ernest Hemingway (uncredited) Sergio Corbucci
1963 Anniversary Narrator
1964 Mr. Kingston
1965 Cinderella King Ralph Nelson
1967 How I Spent My Summer Vacation Lewis Gannet
1967 Warning Shot Orville Ames Buzz Kulik
1968 The Vatican Affair Il professore Herbert Cummings - un studioso illustre di cose vaticane Emilio Miraglia
1968 Funny Girl Florenz Ziegfeld William Wyler
1969 Rascal Sterling North (voice) Norman Tokar
1970 House on Greenapple Road Mayor Jack Parker Robert Day
1970 The Mask of Sheba Dr. Max van Condon David Lowell Rich
1972 The Screaming Woman Dr. Amos Larkin Jack Smight
1972 Skyjacked Sen. Arne Lindner John Guillermin
1973 The Neptune Factor Dr. Samuel Andrews Daniel Petrie
1973 Harry in Your Pocket Casey Bruce Geller
1974 Live Again, Die Again Thomas Carmichael Richard A. Colla
1974 The Girl on the Late, Late Show John Pahlman Gary Nelson
1975 You Lie So Deep, My Love Uncle Joe Padway David Lowell Rich
1975 Murder on Flight 502 Charlie Parkins George McCowan
1976 The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case Judge Trenchard Buzz Kulik
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Grayson's Butler Michael Winner
1976 Two-Minute Warning The Pickpocket Larry Peerce
1978 Sextette The Chairman (final film role) Ken Hughes

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
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

See also

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