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20 October 1999 (USA)  »

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Herman Walston's Vitality Toward Endurance
7 March 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Peter Graves narrates this account of the life and career of Laurel, Mississippi, native Herman Walston, the younger son and third child of a lumberyard employee and gardener, who relocate the family into New Orleans, Louisiana, where four-year-old Herman sees his first motion picture, a Charles Chaplin Silent, at which point the child decides to become a professional future actor.

"Ray," as he is known to family and friends, must detour his aspirations, when, by age 16, the Depression hits New Orleans very hard, and so Ray Walston curtails his formal education, by resigning from high school, to work as a copy boy, and soon a printer at "New Orleans Tribune," before an illness causes his mother to become invalid for the remainder of her years, and so they relocate to Houston, Texas, to join Ray's elder brother and sister.

In Houston, Ray accepts a position at a printing shoppe, while embarking in theatre productions, before deciding to wed Ruth Calvert, in a marriage which endures from 1943-2001, they subsequently welcoming daughter, Katherine Ann, and two grandchildren, Emma and Sarah.

Producer Margo Jones, who casts Ray in several plays during his years in Houston, relocates to Cleveland, Ohio, where he continues with the troupe, to spend three years with the Cleveland Playhouse, beginning with a Tennessee Williams production, and capturing the attention of Broadway along the way.

Ray then relocates to New York City, to audition on Broadway, while Ruth accepts a secretarial position, and he a position with the "Herald Tribune," to manage their expenses for the onset, before his Broadway debut, in a 1945 production of "Hamlet."

Realizing audience appreciation and critical acclaim for his roles in "Damn Yankees" and "South Pacific," among others, Ray accepts the challenge to relocate again, this time to Hollywood and a promising film career.

Although Ray Walston receives recognition from the film community for his work during the 1950's and early 1960's, he reports that he would receive virtually no public recognition, or at least not until he is cast in the role which would make him a star, on television's "My Favorite Martian."

But, after three years starring upon the series, Ray says that fans begin to confuse him and co-star Bill Bixby with their characters continuously, as do casting directors, who evidently see little potential in their talents beyond the one Sitcom.

Ray says that it will take another sixteen years before fans begin to associate him with a different character, as the instructor in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," which introduces him to a new generation of fans.

Ray continues to act in film and on television throughout the next two decades and receives acclaims for his role as a judge on the series "Picket Fences."

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Ray Walston, himself, which adds an extra memorable touch to this episode, with his first-hand accounts of the stories behind his roles on stage, screen and television. Ray is joined here by daughter, Kate Walston, Granddaughters, Sarah and Emma Walston, Actresses Mitzi Gaynor, Ann Marshall and Gwen Verdon, Actors Fyvush Finker and Kevin McCarthy, TV Critic Matt Rousch, Director John Erman, and Producer David E. Kelley.

Archive footage includes Ray Walston with Co-stars Bill Bixby, Costas Mandylor, Jayne Mansfield, Sean Penn, Gary Sinese, Robert Wagner and Gene Wilder in speaking parts, and Doris Day, Cary Grant, Debbie Reynolds and others in non-speaking parts.

Film and Television Clips include a screen glimpse of Ray through the years, in scenes from "Kiss Them for Me" (1957), "Damn Yankees!" 1958), "South Pacific" (1958), "The Apartment" (1960), "My Favorite Martian" (1963-66), "Caprice" (1967), "Silver Streak" (1976), "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982), "Picket Fences" (1992–1996) and "Of Mice and Men" (1992).

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