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Biography

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Overview (5)

Date of Birth 16 March 1878Shelby City, Alabama, USA
Date of Death 17 June 1936Monrovia, California, USA  (influenza & nervous condition)
Birth NameHenry Brazeale Walthall
Nickname Wally
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Henry B. Walthall was a respected stage actor who became a favorite of pioneering film director D.W. Griffith. Born in 1878 in Alabama, Walthall embarked on a law career but quit law school in 1898 to enlist in the US Army in order to fight in the Spanish-American War. Returning from the war he decided to take up an acting career instead of the law, and traveled to New York City to make his mark on Broadway. He debuted on the Great White Way in 1901. His friend and fellow actor James Kirkwood introduced him to Griffith, who already knew of Walthall's reputation as a stage actor. He hired Walthall to appear in his A Convict's Sacrifice (1909), the first of many films they would make together. Griffith, like Walthall a Southerner, cast him as "the little colonel" in his epic The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Shortly afterward Walthall left Biograph and Griffith for Balboa Pictures in Long Beach, CA. In 1917 he and his wife formed their own production company, but after a few films he went back to work for Griffith at Biograph. However, his career went on a downward spiral, and by the 1920s he was appearing in mostly low-budget "B" fare, with only a few side journeys into more quality "A" pictures--Tod Browning's London After Midnight (1927) among them.

The sound period rejuvenated Walthall's career somewhat. He had a distinguished bearing and his voice, unlike those of many bigger silent-screen stars, was perfectly acceptable for talkies. He appeared in such productions as John Ford's Judge Priest (1934) and Browning's The Devil-Doll (1936). He was hired by director Frank Capra to play the High Lama in Capra's production of Lost Horizon (1937), but before the film began production he died of influenza, on June 7, 1936.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: frankfob2@yahoo.com

Spouse (2)

Mary Charleson (1918 - 17 June 1936) (his death) (1 child)
Isabel Fenton (1907 - 1917) (divorced)

Trivia (10)

Brother of Anna Mae Walthall.
Presented an Honorary award for lifetime achievement to D.W. Griffith at the 1936 Academy Awards ceremony.
Dubbed the "Edwin Booth of the Screen."
At the zenith of his career under D.W. Griffith, Walthall earned the huge sum of $175 per week.
Both wives were actresses. Second wife Mary Charleson bore him a daughter, Patricia Walthall, in 1918.
Studied law at Howard College but dropped out after six months to pursue theater in New York, making his debut in 1901 and performing in numerous Southern melodramas.
As part of the cast of the Broadway show "The Great Divide" in 1906, he befriended fellow cast member James Kirkwood. Kirkwood went on to direct films and introduced Walthall to D.W. Griffith. Walthall appeared in a number of Kirkwood's films.
Born in affluence on a plantation near Shelby County, Alabama, one of eight children. His father, Junius Leigh Walthall, was a Virginia native who served as captain in the Confederate Army and later became a respected figure in Alabama politics.
His middle name, Brazeale, was passed on to him. It was his grandmother's Irish maiden name.
Walthall enlisted in the First Alabama Regiment with the United States Army at the beginning of the Spanish-American War. Serving eleven months, a bout of malarial fever while in camp at Jacksonville, Florida kept him from seeing action.

Personal Quotes (1)

[about getting the role of Holofernes in Judith of Bethulia (1914)] I hadn't expected to play Holofernes because I wasn't the type physically. I stayed away from the studio, but [director D.W. Griffith] sent for me. I said, "I can't play the part; I'm too much of a shrimp". But he had tried out a lot of actors, and finally decided that I could do the part to suit him better than anybody else could. So he found a way, just as he always did. He put me on a pedestal and put brass armor on me. I looked like a giant. I stayed up there either on my throne or on a couch all the time. I had two broadswords, and I threw those broadswords around like a giant. The only other time you saw me I was riding in a chariot across the battlefield and, of course, that made me look tall. No, Griffith never said to me, "You're too small!"

Salary (2)

The Birth of a Nation (1915) $175 a week
Chandu the Magician (1932) $1,000

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