Walter Pidgeon

Walter Pidgeon

Fred Astaire heard him singing at a party while appearing with an amateur company in Boston and got him an agent. Walter was more interested in acting, however, and joined E.E. Clive's repertory stage company where he worked on his craft. Thanks also to Astaire, the deep baritone auditioned for and became the singing partner for singer/entertainer Elsie Janis which toured for six months in the mid-1920s. Pidgeon's first wife traveled with the company as an understudy for Janis.

According to the producer of Salt of the Earth (1954), Paul Jarrico, who had been blacklisted during the "Red Scare" of the mid-1950s, Pidgeon tried to stop the production of this motion picture (which was being made by blacklistees) in his capacity as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, which had approved of the blacklisting. In an interview in 1997, Jarrico said, "There was a concerted effort to stop the making of the film after it became known that we were making the film. We had started the film in quite a normal fashion with contracts with Pate Lab to develop our film and rental of the equipment from Hollywood, people who supplied such things. A whistle was blown by Walter Pidgeon, the then president of the Actors Guild, and the FBI swung into action and movie industries swung into action and we found ourselves barred from laboratories, barred from sound studios, barred from any of the normal facilities available to film makers, and we found ourselves hounded by all kinds of denunciations on the floor of Congress and by columnists. The public was told that we were making a new weapon for Russia, that since we were shooting in New Mexico, where you find atom bombs, you find Communists, and every kind of scurrilous

Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 640-642. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.

During his early performances on stage, he played a Mountie in the play "Rose Marie". After playing this character on stage, Pidgeon became so enthusiastic that he actually applied to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Unfortunately he was medically rejected due to his earlier injuries in the Canadian Army.

Featured baritone in the Broadway production "The Puzzles of 1925."

Had a notoriously poor memory for names, referring to anyone whose name he could not remember as "Joe." This became such a habit that, for his birthday one year, the cast and crew of the picture he was working on bought him a present: A director's chair enscribed "Joe Pidgeon."

He donated his body to the U.C.L.A. Medical School in Los Angeles for teaching and research purposes.

He performed in early talking musicals for Warner Brothers.

His daughter, Edna Pidgeon Atkins, was born in 1924, and she once worked at the Animation Department of MGM before marrying in 1947. She gave Walter two granddaughters, Pat and Pam.

His first wife Edna died in 1926 while giving birth to their daughter, whom Mr. Pidgeon also named Edna. His widowed mother Hannah moved out to California to help care for his daughter. She lived there for the next 38 years, dying at the age of 94.

Hobbies included tending to his rose garden and playing bridge.

Pidgeon became a naturalized American citizen after living in the United States for a number of years.

Pidgeon ran off to join his brother, Don, in the Canadian Army, but his young age (16) was discovered, and he was sent back home. He eventually enlisted with the 65th Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery, but he was injured during his training when he was crushed by two guns carriages at Camp Petawawa and he also caught pneumonia. As a result of these, he spent 17 months recovering at an army hospital in Toronto, having never been sent overseas.

Played the husband of Greer Garson's character a total of seven times on film; in Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), Julia Misbehaves (1948), The Miniver Story (1950) and Scandal at Scourie (1953). That Forsyte Woman (1949) was the eighth film they did together but were not husband and wife.

President of Screen Actors Guild (SAG). [1952-1957]

Turned down the role of Gaylord Ravenal in the Universal remake of Show Boat (1936) because he did not want to be typecast in musicals. Allan Jones played the role instead opposite Irene Dunne's Magnolia.

Walter had a brother, Larry Pidgeon. Larry suffered from yellow fever, caught while serving in the Pacific in WWII. Larry Pidgeon was the editorial editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press for many years.

Was nominated for Broadway's 1960 Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical) for "Take Me Along" -- a award that was won by his co-star Jackie Gleason .

Was the last of the four stars (including Bette Davis, Michael Rennie, and Hugh O'Brian) who played a "substitute attorney" on the Perry Mason TV series in 1963 when the star of the program, Raymond Burr suffered from a heart attack. The pressures of performing that guest role convinced him that starring in any TV series was not to his liking.

Wife Ruth was his secretary before he married her.