Willard Waterman

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Willard Waterman
Willard Waterman in Wagon Train 1961.jpg
Willard Waterman in Wagon Train, 1961
Willard Lewis Waterman

(1914-08-29)August 29, 1914
DiedFebruary 2, 1995(1995-02-02) (aged 80)
Resting place Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo, California
Years active1949–1973
Spouse(s)Mary Anna Theleen (1937-1995; his death); 2 children

Willard Lewis Waterman (August 29, 1914, Madison, Wisconsin – February 2, 1995, [1] Burlingame, California) was a character actor in films, TV and on radio, remembered best for replacing Harold Peary as the title character of The Great Gildersleeve at the height of that show's popularity.


Early years

In the mid 1930s, Waterman attended the University of Wisconsin, where he joined Theta Chi, acted in student plays, and was a friend of Uta Hagen. His growing interest in theater put an end to his original plan to be an engineer, and he gained experience in radio at the university's station, WHA. [2]


Waterman replaced Harold Peary, on "The Great Gildersleeve," radio program after Peary was unable to convince sponsor and show owner Kraft Cheese to allow him an ownership stake in the show. Impressed with better capital-gains deals CBS was willing to offer performers in the high-tax late 1940s, he decided to move from NBC to CBS during the latter's famous talent raids. Kraft, however, refused to move the show to CBS and hired Waterman to replace Peary as the stentorian Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve.

He also began his radio career at WIBA in Madison, singing in a quartet that performed "musical interludes between programs," [2] and came to NBC in Chicago in early 1936. [3]

There he met and replaced Peary on The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters . Not only did the two men become longtime friends, but Watermanwho actually looked as though he could have been Peary's sibling, and whose voice was a near-match for Peary'srefused to appropriate the half-leering, half-embarrassed laugh Peary had made a Gildersleeve trademark. He stayed with The Great Gildersleeve from 1950 to 1957 on radio and in a short-lived television series syndicated in 1955. [4]

During World War II, Waterman worked in war production [ clarification needed ] in the Nash-Kelvinator plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin.[ citation needed ]

At the same time he was heard as Gildersleeve, Waterman had a recurring role as Mr. Merriweather in the short-lived but respected radio comedy vehicle for Ronald Colman and his wife Benita Hume, The Halls of Ivy . Waterman's pre-Gildersleeve radio career, in addition to Tom Mix, had included at least one starring vehicle, a short-lived situation comedy, Those Websters , [5] that premiered in 1945.

He had radio roles between the mid 1930s and 1950 on such shows as Chicago Theater of the Air (variety) and Harold Teen (comedy), plus four soap operas: Girl Alone , [6] The Guiding Light , Lonely Women , [7] The Road of Life and Kay Fairchild, Stepmother.


Waterman is remembered for his role as Claude Upson in the 1958 film Auntie Mame . [8] He was also seen in Riding High , Three Coins in the Fountain , and The Apartment . [9] [4]


Waterman was in two Broadway productions of the musical Mame (the 1966 original and the 1983 revival) and the 1973 Broadway revival of The Pajama Game . He also toured in the national companies of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum . [9]


Waterman's later career included a variety of film and TV supporting roles on such shows as a short-lived television adaptation of The Great Gildersleeve, Vacation Playhouse, Lawman , My Favorite Martian , The Eve Arden Show (four episodes from 1957-1958 as Carl Foster), 77 Sunset Strip , Bonanza , The Dick Van Dyke Show , Guestward Ho! , F Troop , and Dennis the Menace , in which he played the lovable grocer, Mr. Quigley. Between 1957 and 1959, he appeared five times as Mac Maginnis in the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys starring Walter Brennan. [4]

Waterman was all but retired from acting after 1973, although in 1980 he appeared in the "Boss and Peterson" radio commercial for Sony, for which he received a Clio Award. [10]

Labor activities

In 1937, Waterman was a founding member of the radio union known as the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. One obituary noted, "He was believed to be the only person to have served as a member of the union's board of directors in four different locales: Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York." [11]


Waterman died of bone marrow disease February 2, 1995, at his home in Burlingame, California, [9] and is interred at Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo, California. He was survived by his wife, Mary Anna (née Theleen), two daughters, three granddaughters, and a great-granddaughter. [9]


Waterman has a star in the Radio section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [12]


1949 Flaming Fury DutchUncredited
1949 Flame of Youth Steve Miller
1949 Free for All Commander H.C. Christie
1950 No Man of Her Own Jack OlsenUncredited
1950 Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town J.J. SchumacherUncredited
1950 Riding High Arthur Winslow
1950 Father of the Bride Vincent Dixon - Engagement Party GuestUncredited
1950 Louisa Dick Stewart
1950 The Lawless PawlingUncredited
1950 Mystery Street A Mortician
1950 Three Secrets MaxUncredited
1950 Hit Parade of 1951 OilmanUncredited
1950 Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone Mr. Ogle
1950 Watch the Birdie MayorUncredited
1951 Fourteen Hours Mr. HarrisUncredited
1951 Francis Goes to the Races ExerciserUncredited
1951 Darling, How Could You! Theatre Manager
1951 Rhubarb Orlando Dill
1951 Sunny Side of the Street John 'J.R.' Stevens
1952 Has Anybody Seen My Gal? Dr. WallaceUncredited
1953 It Happens Every Thursday Myron Trout
1953 Half a Hero Charles McEstway
1954 Three Coins in the Fountain Mr. HoytUncredited
1955 Three for the Show TV Show ModeratorUncredited
1955 How to Be Very, Very Popular Speaker
1956 Hollywood or Bust Manager NevilleUncredited; final Martin & Lewis film
1958 Auntie Mame Claude Upson
1960 The Apartment Mr. Vanderhoff
1962 The Joey Bishop Show Johnathan Flint.1 episode
1962 Walk on the Wild Side Man Listening to SpeechUncredited
1963 My Favorite Martian Mr. TrimbleEpisode- There is No Cure for the Common Martian
1964 Get Yourself a College Girl Senator Hubert Morrison
1972 Hail Vice President(final film role)

Radio appearances

1948 Screen Guild Players Up in Central Park [13]
1949 Escape Red Wine [14]

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  8. "(photo caption)". The Zanesville Signal. May 31, 1959. p. 10. Retrieved June 13, 2015 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
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  10. Clio Award website, clioawards.com; retrieved on July 15, 2007.
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  13. "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 40 (1): 32–39. Winter 2014.
  14. "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.