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Ray Walston
Born Herman Walston
November 2, 1914(1914-11-02)
New Orleans, Louisiana,
United States
Died January 1, 2001 (aged 86)
Beverly Hills, California,
United States
Occupation Film, television actor
Spouse(s) Ruth Calvert (1943-2001)

Ray Walston (November 2, 1914[1] – January 1, 2001) was an American stage, television and film actor who played the title character on the situation comedy My Favorite Martian and Judge Henry Bone on the drama series Picket Fences.



Early life

He was born Herman Walston in New Orleans, Louisiana (some sources indicate Laurel, Mississippi) to working-class parents Mittie (née Kimball) and Harry Norman Walston, a lumber man.[2] 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 travelling shows but also worked at a movie theater, selling tickets and cleaning the stage floors. His family moved to Houston, Texas, where he joined the Houston Civic Theater's repertory company under Margo Jones, debuting in 1938.

Stage work

Walston was very popular with Margo Jones's team of actors before he travelled to Cleveland, Ohio, where he spent three years with the Cleveland Playhouse. He then traveled to New York City, where he made his Broadway debut in a 1945 production of Hamlet. In 1949, he appeared in the short-lived play Mrs. Gibbons' Boys directed by George Abbott, who later cast him as Satan in the 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, and he and Verdon were invited to reprise their roles in the 1958 film version.[3]

Additional Broadway credits included The Front Page, Summer and Smoke, King Richard III, Wish You Were Here, and House of Flowers. Walston 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.

Film and television work

Walston had a successful movie career in addition to Damn Yankees!, beginning with Kiss Them for Me in 1957, and then South Pacific (1958), where he played Luther Billis; Say One for Me (1959); Tall Story, Portrait in Black, and The Apartment (all in 1960); Convicts 4 (1962); Wives and Lovers, and Who's Minding the Store? (both in 1963); Kiss Me, Stupid (1964); Caprice (1967); and Paint Your Wagon (1969). Walston is also featured in the 1973 Best-Picture-Winner The Sting, in which he is crucial to the successful swindling of an unsuspecting griftee (played by Robert Shaw). He was also among many of the actors who played themselves in cameos for Robert Altman's The Player, although Walston along with several other stars, are actually in character for a movie within a movie sequence.

He guest starred on numerous television program, including a role in 1960-1961 as a judge on NBC's The Outlaws with Barton MacLane. Walston went on to some of his greatest success on the small screen. He starred as the Martian, alias Uncle Martin, on My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966. His co-star was Bill Bixby. Walston was also known for playing Starfleet Academy groundskeeper "Boothby" in Star Trek: The Next Generation and later on Star Trek: Voyager.

After Martian

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

Although Martian had somewhat typecast him and he had difficulty finding more serious roles after the show's cancellation, he managed to return to beloved character actor status in television of the 1970s and 1980s, appearing as a guest star in numerous shows, such 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 with Bill Bixby (in which he played Jasper the Magician in an episode called "My Favorite Magician"), among many others. In 1976 he played the part of sleazy Edgar Whiney in the film Silver Streak.

From 1980 to 1992, Walston starred in fourteen movies, including 1981's Galaxy of Terror, and 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High (as well as its 1986 television adaptation) as Mr. Hand. In a 1999 interview, Walston said he was happy and relieved that when he walks down the street, young fans shout at him "Mr. Hand" because he had finally torn away from his Martian role.[4]

Television comeback

Walston as Boothby in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In 1984, Walston played a judge on an episode of Night Court. Six years later, he would work with David E. Kelley while guest-starring on L.A. Law as a suffering father. These roles led to his work as Judge Henry Bone on Picket Fences, which began production in 1992 for CBS. Judge Bone was originally a recurring role on the show, but Walston proved to be so popular that he was given a starring role the following year. In his late 70s, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for the first time. Walston made an appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Boothby, head groundskeeper at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco, and then 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 Star Trek: 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 stated a line from Hamlet. Robert Beltran then stated the next line, and Walston the next. The two went on for several minutes, amazing the entire cast and crew. Tim Russ remembered in an interview for the special features of the Voyager Season 5 DVD that it was so quiet beside them, you could hear a pin drop, and that when they were done, everyone broke out in applause.

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 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.

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. Though Walston enjoyed his work in the series, its ratings were beginning to slip, and CBS cancelled the show after four seasons in 1996. However, Walston made a memorable 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.

Later years

After gaining popularity both as the Martian and as the judge on the small screen, his career was coming to an end when he played Grandfather Walter Addams in Addams Family Reunion (1998), the straight-to-video second sequel to the blockbuster 1991 film The Addams Family, this time starring Tim Curry as Gomez Addams and Daryl Hannah as Morticia Addams. One year later, he appeared in the movie remake of his hit series, My Favorite Martian (1999). His final movie role was in the independent film Early Bird Special. He also appeared in an AT&T long distance TV commercial 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. Just before his death, his final TV guest appearance was on 7th Heaven.


Walston died at the age of 86 on New Year's Day, 2001 in Beverly Hills, California, after a 6-year battle with lupus. He was survived by his widow, Ruth, his daughter, Katherine Ann, and two grandchildren. Walston was cremated, and his ashes were given to his daughter, Kate.[3]


Walston tended to play characters that could be described as "curmudgeonly." His Martian was constantly ridiculing the primitiveness of the Earth's populace, and his attitude was exacerbated by his inability to fix his spacecraft. His forced earthbound existence clearly seemed like a Martian version of Purgatory to him—an ironic comparison as his first major role, Mr. Applegate in Damn Yankees!, was an especially devilish character. He occasionally broke out of this typecast, however, most visibly as the amiable yet pessimistic Glen Bateman in the television miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand in 1994.



  1. ^ Death certificate information via SSDI; search for Herman Walston
  2. ^ Ray Walston Biography (1918–2001)
  3. ^ a b "Ray Walston, Broadway Star And TV Martian, Dies at 86". New York Times. January 3, 2001. Retrieved 2008-07-03. "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."  
  4. ^ Fast Times at Ridgemont High DVD documentary

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