Henry B. Walthall

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Henry B. Walthall
Walthall in 1934
Henry Brazeale Walthall

(1878-03-16)March 16, 1878
DiedJune 17, 1936(1936-06-17) (aged 58)
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Years active1906–1936
Isabel Fenton
(m. 1904;div. 1918)

(m. 1918)

Henry Brazeale Walthall (March 16, 1878 June 17, 1936) was an American stage and film actor. He appeared as the Little Colonel in D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915).


Early life

Henry B. Walthall was born March 16, 1878 [1] :1437 on a cotton plantation owned by his father in Shelby County, Alabama. His father had been a captain in the Confederate States Army. [2] [3]

In 1898, during the Spanish–American War, he enlisted in the First Alabama Regiment. [4] He contracted malaria while in camp in Jacksonville, Florida, and the war ended before he had recovered. [3] He served 11 months, and when his regiment was discharged he returned home. Then, with $100, he left for New York to make his career on the stage. [4] He played small parts with the Murray Hill Theater stock company. Later he became affiliated with the American Theater stock company and soon afterward joined the Providence, Rhode Island, stock company. [3]


Walthall in The Moving Picture World, 1916 Henry B. Walthall 1916.png
Walthall in The Moving Picture World , 1916
Filming The Escape in 1913
Modern Husbands.jpg
Modern Husbands (1919)
Tol'able David 1930.jpg
Still from Tol'able David showing (from left) Harlan E. Knight, Peter Richmond, Walthall, Joan Peers, Noah Beery (1930)
Judge Priest (1934) 1.jpg
Will Rogers and Walthall in Judge Priest (1934)

In New York in 1901, [2] Walthall won a role in Under Southern Skies by Charlotte Blair Parker. He performed in the play for three years, in New York and on tour. [4] With the company of Henry Miller he gained recognition on Broadway in plays, including Pippa Passes , The Only Way and William Vaughn Moody's The Great Divide (1906–08). [2] [5] His fellow cast member James Kirkwood introduced Walthall to D. W. Griffith, [4] and at the conclusion of that engagement, Walthall joined the Biograph Company. [3]

His career in films began in 1909 at Biograph Studios in New York with a leading role in the film A Convict's Sacrifice. This film also featured James Kirkwood, and was directed by D.W. Griffith, a director that played a huge part in Walthall's rise to stardom. As the industry grew in size and popularity, Griffith emerged as a director, and Walthall found himself a mainstay of the Griffith company, frequently working with Griffith regulars such as Owen Moore, Kate Bruce, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Mae Marsh, Bobby Harron and Jack and Mary Pickford. He followed Griffith's departure from New York's Biograph to California's Reliance-Majestic Studios in 1913. After a few months with Reliance, he joined Pathé for a short period. [3]

He decided to go into the producing business and formed The Union Feature Film Company, the first to be devoted entirely to full-length films. The venture was not successful, however, and he again became associated with Griffith's company. [3]

Given the relatively short length of films in the early years, Walthall frequently found himself cast in dozens of films each year. He gained national attention in 1915 for his role as Colonel Ben Cameron in Griffith's highly influential and controversial epic The Birth of a Nation . Walthall's portrayal of a Confederate veteran rounding up the Ku Klux Klan won him large-scale fame, and Walthall emerged as a leading actor in the years leading up to the 1920s, parting ways with Griffith.

Walthall continued working in films through the 1920s, appearing in The Plastic Age with Gilbert Roland and Clara Bow. He portrayed Roger Chillingworth in Victor Sjöström's 1926 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter with Lillian Gish.

Walthall continued his career into the 1930s. After his performance in director John Ford's 1934 film Judge Priest starring Will Rogers he enjoyed a golden period of his career. He portrayed Dr. Manette in A Tale of Two Cities (1935), starring Ronald Colman. In 1936, he appeared as Marcel in The Devil-Doll and as Captain Buchanan in the American Civil War drama Hearts in Bondage . He was gravely ill during his final film China Clipper .

Frank Capra wanted Walthall to portray the High Lama in his 1937 film Lost Horizon . "Frail and failing, he died before we could test him," Capra wrote. [6] :196

Walthall has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard.

Personal life

Lillian Gish described Walthall as "a slight man, about five feet six, fine-boned, with the face of a poet and a dreamer." [7] :135 She recalled his patience while Griffith grappled with technical problems filming the epilogue of Home, Sweet Home (1914), a scene in which Gish, as an angel, lifts Walthall's character out of hell. "There was a long discussion while Walthall and I, encased in leather harness, hung on the guide wires. Wally, a true southern gentleman, didn't raise his voice, didn't complain; he simply fainted and hung there limply." [7] :113

Walthall was married twice. His marriage to actress Isabel Fenton (1904–1918) ended in divorce. [8] [9] His second marriage to Irish actress Mary Charleson lasted from 1918 until his death in 1936.

Exhausted from months of uninterrupted film work, Walthall collapsed on the Warner Bros. set after completing his scenes in the film China Clipper , in which he portrayed an airplane inventor. He entered the Pasteur Sanitarium at Monrovia, California, and died of an intestinal illness three weeks later on June 17, 1936. [4]


1909A Convict's SacrificeThe Convict's FriendShort [1] :1437
1909 The Mended Lute IndianShort
1909PranksSunbatherShort [1] :1437
1909 The Sealed Room The MinstrelShort [1] :1437
1909 In Old Kentucky Robert, the Confederate SonShort [1] :1437
1909 The Hessian Renegades Short
1909 A Corner in Wheat The wheat king's assistantShort [1] :1437
1909 Fools of Fate Short
1909 A Trap for Santa Claus ArthurShort
1909 In Little Italy VictorShort
1909 The Day After Party GuestShort
1909 Choosing a Husband HarryShort [1] :1437
1909 Getting Even MinerShort
1910The Honor of His FamilyGeorge Pickett Jr.Short [1] :1437
1910 In Old California Perdita's SonShort [1] :1437
1910 The Two Brothers PedroShort
1910 The Kid Walter HoldenShort
1910The Gold SeekersThe ProspectorShort [1] :1437
1910 Ramona AlessandroShort
1910 In the Border States Confederate CorporalShort, Uncredited
1910 The House with Closed Shutters The Confederate SoldierShort
1910The Sorrows of the UnfaithfulBillShort [1] :1437
1910A Summer IdylAlbertShort [1] :1437
1910 The Oath and the Man Henri PrevostShort [1] :1437
1910 Rose O'Salem-Town The TrapperShort
1910The Armorer's DaughterShort [1] :1437
1911A Little ChildThe BurglarShort [1] :1437
1912The Miser's DaughterThe Miser's Daughter's SweetheartShort [1] :1437
1912Home FolksShort [1] :1437
1912 The Inner Circle Short
1912 A Change of Spirit First Gentleman ThiefShort
1912 Two Daughters of Eve The FatherShort
1912 Friends Dandy JackShort [1] :1437
1912 So Near, Yet So Far Short
1912 A Feud in the Kentucky Hills Psalm SingerShort
1912 In the Aisles of the Wild Jim WatsonShort
1912 The One She Loved The HusbandShort
1912 The Painted Lady At Ice Cream FestivalShort, Uncredited
1912 My Baby The HusbandShort
1912 The Informer The false BrotherShort
1912 Brutality In PlayShort
1912 My Hero Indian CharlieShort
1912 The Burglar's Dilemma Householder's Weakling BrotherShort
1912 The God Within The WoodsmanShort
1913 Three Friends Ned Billings - the HusbandShort
1913 Oil and Water The IdealistShort [1] :1437
1913 Love in an Apartment Hotel The Young Woman's FiancéShort
1913 Broken Ways The Road AgentShort [1] :1437
1913 The Sheriff's Baby First BanditShort
1913 The Perfidy of Mary PoetShort
1913 The Lady and the Mouse The 1st RivalShort
1913 If We Only Knew The FatherShort
1913 The Wanderer The WandererShort
1913 The Tenderfoot's Money The ProspectorShort
1913 The Stolen Loaf The Poor ManShort
1913 The House of Darkness Minor RoleShort
1913 Red Hicks Defies the World In CrowdShort
1913 Death's Marathon The HusbandShort [1] :1437
1913 The Switch Tower The SwitchmanShort
1913 The Mothering Heart Club PatronShort, Uncredited
1913 The Mistake Jack, the Friend, a ProspectorShort
1913 A Gambler's Honor Beth's BrotherShort
1913 During the Round-Up The StrangerShort
1913 The Mirror The Station AgentShort
1913 The Vengeance of Galora Short [1] :1437
1913 Two Men of the Desert First PartnerShort [1] :1437
1913 A Woman in the Ultimate Member of the Badger GangShort
1913The Wedding Gown [1] :1437
1913 The Battle at Elderbush Gulch Indian Chief's SonShort [1] :1437
1913 The Little Tease The Valley Man
1914 Classmates Duncan IrvingShort [10]
1914 The Green-Eyed Devil Short
1914The Gangsters of New York [1] :1437Porky DuganShort [10]
1914 Judith of Bethulia Holofernes [11]
1914 Strongheart Soangataha / StrongheartShort, [1] :1437
1914 The Floor Above Stephen PrydeShort [11]
1914Ashes of the Past [1] :1437
1914 Home, Sweet Home John Howard Payne [1] :1437 [10]
1914 The Mountain Rat Douglas WilliamsShort [1] :1437 [11]
1914 Lord Chumley Lord ChumleyShort [10]
1914 Man's Enemy Short
1914 The Avenging Conscience The Nephew [10]
1914The OdalisqueJoe, in love with MayShort [1] :1437
1915 The Birth of a Nation Col. Ben Cameron [11]
1915BeulahDr. Guy Hartwell [10]
1915 Ghosts Captain Arling / Oswald [1] :1437 [11]
1915 The Raven Edgar Allan Poe [10]
1915The Woman Hater [1] :1437
1916 The Misleading Lady Jack Craigen [10]
1916 The Strange Case of Mary Page Phil Langdon, AttorneySerial, lost film
1916The Birth of a Man [11]
1916The Sting of Victory David Whiting/Walker Whiting [10]
1916The Pillars of SocietyKarsten Bernick [1] :1437 [11]
1916 The Truant Soul Dr. John Lancaster / Dr. Lawson [10]
1917Little ShoesDavid Noel [10]
1917 Burning the Candle James Maxwell [10]
1917The Saint's AdventureRev. Paul Manson [10]
1917National Association's All-Star Picture [11]
1918 His Robe of Honor Julian Randolph [10]
1918 Humdrum Brown Hector "Humdrum" Brown [10]
1918 With Hoops of Steel Emerson Mead [10]
1918 The Great Love Sir Roger Brighton [10]
1918And a Still Small VoiceClay Randolph [10]
1919The Long Lane's TurningHarry Sevier [10]
1919 The False Faces Michael Lanyard, "The Lone Wolf" [10]
1919Modern HusbandsStephen Duane [10]
1919 The Boomerang George Gray [10]
1919The Long Arm of MannisterGeorge Mannister [10]
1920 The Confession Father Bartlett [10]
1920 Parted Curtains Joe Jenkins [10]
1920A Splendid HazardKarl Breitman [10]
1921 Flower of the North Philip Whittemore [10]
1922The Ableminded LadyBreezy Bright [10]
1922 One Clear Call Henry Garnett [10]
1922 The Kickback Aaron Price [10]
1922 The Long Chance Harley P. Hennage [10]
1922 The Marriage Chance Dr. Paul Graydon [10]
1923 The Face on the Bar-Room Floor Robert Stevens [10]
1923 Gimme John McGimsey
1923 The Unknown Purple Peter Marchmont / Victor Cromport [10]
1923 Boy of Mine William Latimer [10]
1924 The Woman on the Jury Prosecuting AttorneyLost film [10]
1924 Single Wives Franklin Dexter [10]
1924 The Bowery Bishop Norman Strong [10]
1925 The Golden Bed Colonel Peake [11]
1925On the ThresholdAndrew Masters [10]
1925 The Girl Who Wouldn't Work William Hale [10]
1925Kit Carson Over the Great DivideDr. Samuel Webb [10]
1925 Kentucky Pride Mr. Beaumont [10]
1925 Dollar Down Alec Craig [10]
1925Simon the JesterBrandt [10]
1925 The Plastic Age Henry Carver [10]
1926 Three Faces East George Bennett [11]
1926 The Barrier Gale Gaylord [10]
1926 The Unknown Soldier Mr. Phillips [10]
1926 The Road to Mandalay Father James [10]
1926 The Scarlet Letter Roger Chillingworth [10]
1926 Everybody's Acting Thorpe [11]
1927 Fighting Love Filipo Navarro [10]
1927The Enchanted IslandTim Sanborn [10]
1927 Wings Mr. Armstrong [10]
1927 The Rose of Kildare Bob Avery [10]
1927 Love Me and the World Is Mine Van Denbosch [10]
1927A Light in the WindowJohann Graff [10]
1927 London After Midnight Sir James Hamlin [10]
1928RetributionHenry / Tommy MooneyShort, Vitaphone Varieties 2418
1928 Freedom of the Press John Ballard [10]
1929 The Jazz Age Mr. Maxwell
1929 Stark Mad Captain RhodesLost film [10]
1929 Speakeasy Fuzzy [10]
1929 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Father Juniper [10]
1929 From Headquarters Buffalo Bill Ryan [10]
1929 River of Romance Gen. Jeff Rumford [10]
1929 Black Magic Dr. Bradbroke [10]
1929 Street Corner Short
1929 In Old California Don Pedro DeLeón [1] :1437 [10]
1929 The Phantom in the House Boyd Milburn [10]
1929 The Trespasser Fuller [10]
1930 Blaze o' Glory BurkeLost film [10]
1930 Temple Tower Blackton [10]
1930 Abraham Lincoln Colonel Marshall [10]
1930 The Love Trader Captain Adams [10]
1930 Tol'able David Amos Hatburn [10]
1931 Is There Justice? District Attorney John Raymond [10]
1931 Anybody's Blonde Mr. Evans [10]
1932 Police Court Nat Barry [10]
1932 Hotel Continental Winthrop [10]
1932 Strange Interlude Professor Leeds [10]
1932 Alias Mary Smith Atwell [10]
1932 Chandu the Magician Robert Regent [10]
1932 Ride Him, Cowboy John Gaunt [10]
1932 Klondike Mark Armstrong [10]
1932 The Cabin in the Cotton Eph Clinton [10]
1932 Me and My Gal Sarge [10]
1932 Central Park Eby [10]
1932 Self Defense Dr. Borden [10]
1933 42nd Street The ActorUncredited [10]
1933 The Whispering Shadow J.D. Bradley - Company PresidentSerial [1] :1437
1933 The Flaming Signal Rev. James [10]
1933 Somewhere in Sonora Bob Leadly [10]
1933 Hold Your Man Clergyman in Alternate VersionUncredited
1933 Laughing at Life Presidente Valenzuela [10]
1933 Headline Shooter Judge BeaconUncredited [10]
1933 Her Forgotten Past Mr. Maynard [10]
1933 The Wolf Dog Jim CourtneySerial
1933 The Sin of Nora Moran Father Ryan [10]
1934 Dark Hazard SchultzUncredited [10]
1934 Beggars in Ermine Marchant the Blind Man
1934 Men in White Dr. McCabe [2]
1934 Viva Villa! Francisco I. Madero [4]
1934 City Park Colonel Henry Randolph Ransome
1934 The Murder in the Museum Bernard Latham Wayne, alias Professor Mysto
1934 Judge Priest Rev. Ashby Brand [10]
1934 The Scarlet Letter Roger Chillingworth [10]
1934 The Lemon Drop Kid Jonas Deering [1] :1437 [4]
1934 A Girl of the Limberlost Dr. Ammon [10]
1934 Love Time Duke Johann von Hatzfeld
1934 Bachelor of Arts Professor Barth [10]
1935 Helldorado Abner Meadows [1] :1437
1935 Dante's Inferno Pop McWade [10]
1935 A Tale of Two Cities Dr. Manette [10]
1936 The Garden Murder Case Dr. Garden [1] :1437
1936 The Mine with the Iron Door David Burton
1936 Hearts in Bondage Captain Buchanan
1936 The Last Outlaw Under Sheriff Calvin YatesScreening on Broadway when Walthall died [4] [10]
1936 The Devil-Doll Marcel [10]
1936 China Clipper Dad BrunnWalthall collapsed on the set after completing his scenes [10] and died three weeks later [4]
(final film role)

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  2. 1 2 3 4 "Obituaries: Henry B. Walthall". Variety : 78. June 24, 1936. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Chats with the Players: Henry B. Walthall". Motion Picture Magazine: 113–115. October 1915. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Henry Walthall, Film Actor, Dead; Veteran of Early Cinema, 58, Made Reputation in 'The Birth of a Nation'". The New York Times . July 18, 1936.
  5. "Henry B. Walthall". Internet Broadway Database . Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  6. Capra, Frank (1971). The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography . New York: The MacMillan Company. OCLC   468875274.
  7. 1 2 Gish, Lillian (1969). Lillian Gish: The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me . Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. OCLC   3175012.
  8. "New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24MP-GM6  : 10 February 2018), Henry Walthall and Isabella Mack, 09 Sep 1904; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,556,930.
  9. “Walthall Has Divorce.” Variety, 22 Nov. 1918, p. 47.
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