Walter Huston

Walter Huston, born Walter Houghston, actor (b at Toronto 6 Apr 1884; d at Los Angeles, Ca 7 Apr 1950). Walter Huston, whose parents were of Irish and Scottish descent, became a distinguished character actor of stage and screen. Huston was described as "possibly the best American actor ever," though he was raised and attended school in Victorian Toronto. Although he trained as an engineer, he was drawn to the stage, and by 1905 was successful in vaudeville and had performed on Broadway. He took some time off to raise a family and by 1909 he committed himself to a career on stage and eventually in the movies.

His busy film career began in 1928 when there was a mass exodus of Broadway players to Hollywood for the "talking" pictures. Impressive both in physical stature and histrionic presence, and blessed with a well-modulated distinctive voice, Huston quickly rose through the ranks to play leads in D.W. Griffith's Abraham Lincoln (1930), Dodsworth (1936; for which he received an Oscar nomination for best actor), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941; another Oscar nomination for best actor as the devil), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942; a third nomination, this time for best supporting actor as the James Cagney character's father) and And Then There Were None (1945).

Although Huston was not noted as a singer, Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson composed September Song especially for the actor to perform on Broadway in the original 1939 version of Knickerbocker Holiday. He received his fourth Oscar nomination in 1948 for his superb performance as the grizzled prospector in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) directed by his son, John. This time he won for best supporting actor, as did John for best director. Walter Huston had the small role of Captain Jacoby, who dies in Sam Spade's office while delivering the falcon wrapped in newspapers, in John Huston's debut feature The Maltese Falcon (1941), generally regarded as the best detective film made in Hollywood during its second Golden Age.

Walter Huston's other notable films include The Virginian (1929), The Criminal Code (1930), Rai (1932), Rhodes of Africa (1936), The Light That Failed (1939), Swamp Water (1941), Why We Fight (1942; voice), The Outlaw (1943), Dragon Seed (1944), Dragonwyck (1946), Duel in the Sun (1947), Summer Holiday (1948) and The Furies (1950). His son John went on to become one of the great Hollywood directors with a string of memorable films. His granddaughter, Anjelica Huston, is an Oscar-winning actress in her own right, and his grandson is the screenwriter and actor Tony Huston. Their half-brother is the actor and director, Danny Huston.