Walter Thomas Huston (/ˈwoːltər ˈhjuːstən/; April 5, 1883 – April 7, 1950) was a Canadian-born American actor. He was the father of actor and director John Huston, the grandfather of Pablo Huston, Walter Anthony (Tony) Huston, Anjelica Huston, Danny Huston, and Allegra Huston, and the great-grandfather of actor Jack Huston.
Huston was born in Toronto, Ontario, where he attended Winchester Street Public School. He was the son of Elizabeth (nee McGibbon) and Robert Moore Houghston, a provincial farmer who founded a construction company. He was of Scottish and Irish descent. He had a brother and two sisters, one of whom was the famous theatrical voice coach Margaret Carrington (1877–1941).
His family moved from Orangeville, Ontario before his birth where they were farmers. As a young man he worked in construction and in his spare time attended the Shaw School of Acting. He made his stage debut in 1902. He went on to tour in In Convict Stripes, a play by Hal Reid, father of Wallace Reid and also appeared with Richard Mansfield in Julius Caesar. He again toured in another play The Sign of the Cross. In 1904, he married Rhea Gore (1882–1938) and gave up acting to work as a manager of electric power stations in Nevada, Missouri. He maintained these jobs till 1909 during which time the couple had a son, John in 1906.
In 1909, his marriage floundering, he began appearing in vaudeville with an older actress called Bayonne Whipple (1865–1937) (born Mina Rose). They were billed as Whipple and Huston and in 1915 they married. Vaudeville was their livelihood into the 1920s.
Huston began his Broadway career on January 22, 1924 in which he appeared in a play Mr. Pitt. Several following Broadway plays solidified his fame, e.g., Desire Under the Elms, Kongo, The Barker, Elmer the Great, Dodsworth.
Once talkies began in Hollywood, he achieved fame in both character roles and as a leading man. His first major role was portraying the villainous Trampas in the western The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper.
He starred as the title character in the Broadway theatrical adaptation of Sinclair Lewis's novel Dodsworth in 1934 and the play's film version two years later. For his role as Sam Dodsworth, Huston won the New York Critic's Circle Award for Best Actor and was nominated for the Academy Award.
Huston remained busy throughout the 1930s and 1940s, both on stage and screen (becoming one of America's most distinguished actors); he performed "September Song" in the original Broadway production of Knickerbocker Holiday in 1938. Among his films are Abraham Lincoln (1930), Rain (1932), Gabriel Over the White House (1933), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and Mission to Moscow (1943), a pro-Soviet World War II propaganda film as Ambassador Joseph E. Davies.
In 1941 Walter Huston portrayed the part of the ship's captain who is shot while delivering the black bird to Sam Spade in the "Maltese Falcon". This was an uncredited performance. Walter's son, John Huston, directed the picture. John Huston as a practical joke had his father enter the scene and die over 10 different takes.
In 1948, he played Howard in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was also directed by his son, John Huston. The film was based on B. Traven's novel, which told the story of three gold diggers in 1920s post-revolution Mexico. Walter Huston won the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film, while John Huston won the Best Director Academy Award, thus making them the first father and son to win at the same ceremony.
In the 1950 release of the film entitled, "September Affair", starring Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotton, Walter Huston sang the title song in the movie. The "September Song" was very popular romantic tune during the 1950s and 60s. He had originally appeared in the Broadway show "Knickerbocker Holiday", which is where he originated the song. His last film was the 1950, The Furies with Barbara Stanwyck
Along with Anthony Veiller, he narrated the Why We Fight series of World War II documentaries directed by Frank Capra.
He died in Hollywood from an aortic aneurysm, two days after his 67th birthday. He was cremated and his ashes were buried at Belmont Memorial Park in Fresno, California. In 1960, Huston was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6624 Hollywood Blvd. for his contribution to motion pictures. He is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.
His son John Huston went from a screenwriter, to an Academy Award-winning director, to an acclaimed actor. All of his grandchildren have become actors, as well as his great-grandson.
Granddaughter Anjelica Huston sang his famous "September Song" on the May 7, 2012 episode of the NBC TV series Smash.
In 1998, John Weld wrote and published the biographical book September Song – an intimate biography of Walter Huston.