Ray Walston

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A popular American actor and occasional singer during the 1940s and '50s.
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b. 22 November 1918, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 1 January 2001, Beverly Hills, California, USA. Walston’s stage career included appearances on Broadway in minor roles in plays such as a revival of The Front Page (1946), The Rat Race (1949), the musicals Me And Juliet (1953) and House Of Flowers (1954). He then won the plum role of Mr. Applegate, the Devil in disguise, in the stage musical Damn Yankees (1955), singing ‘Those Were The Good Old Days’. Walston won the Tony Award as Best Actor while co-star Gwen Verdon (Lola) won as Best Actress. From the late 50s Walston was mostly in films and television but returned to Broadway for Who Was That Lady I Saw You With (1958) and Agatha Sue, I Love You, which had a three-day run in 1966. His films from the mid-50s included comedy and dramatic roles and also some musicals. In 1957 he was in Kiss Them For Me, which starred Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield. He was then in the film version of South Pacific (1958), playing the role of Luther Billis, memorably leading the all-male chorus for the opening ‘There Is Nothing Like A Dame’.

In 1958 he reprised his stage role as the Devil for the film version of Damn Yankees (1958), again with Verdon as Lola. He also was in Say One For Me (1959), with Bing Crosby as a priest on Broadway, a film that Variety considered ‘tasteless and disturbing’. Also thought tasteless by many was Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), a rare misfire by director and co-writer Billy Wilder, which starred Dean Martin as a sex-obsessed pop singer who tries to steal would-be songwriter Walston’s wife, Kim Novak. He had small roles in Paint Your Wagon (1969), The Sting (1973), Popeye (1980), Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) and Early Bird Special (2001), the latter released after his death. For many, Walston’s most memorable role was as Uncle Martin the Martian in the popular television series, My Favorite Martian (1963). He continued to appear on television throughout the rest of his career, mostly in small screen films but he also was in the series Cliffhangers: Stop Susan Williams (1979) and was a voice for The Smurfs (1981). In 1999 he was in My Favorite Martian, the television film version of the show in which he had starred more than three decades earlier.