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Henry B. Walthall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry B. Walthall
Walthall in 1934
Henry Brazeale Walthall

(1878-03-16)March 16, 1878
DiedJune 17, 1936(1936-06-17) (aged 58)
Resting placeHollywood 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).

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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 Junius Leigh Walthall had been a captain in the Confederate States Army.[2][3] His sister, Anna Mae Walthall (1894–1950) had a film career in the 1920s.[4]

In 1898, during the Spanish–American War, he enlisted in the First Alabama Regiment.[5] 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.[5] 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
Filming The Escape in 1913
Modern Husbands (1919)
Still from Tol'able David showing (from left) Harlan E. Knight, Peter Richmond, Walthall, Joan Peers, Noah Beery (1930)
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.[5] 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][6] His fellow cast member James Kirkwood introduced Walthall to D. W. Griffith,[5] 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, Lionel Barrymore, Harry Carey, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Blanche Sweet, 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.[7]: 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."[8]: 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."[8]: 113 

Walthall was married twice. His marriage to actress Isabel Fenton (1904–1918) ended in divorce.[9][10] 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.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1908 Rescued from an Eagle's Nest Woodsman Short[1]: 1437 
1909 A Convict's Sacrifice The Convict's Friend Short[1]: 1437 
1909 The Mended Lute Indian Short
1909 Pranks Sunbather Short[1]: 1437 
1909 The Sealed Room The Minstrel Short[1]: 1437 
1909 In Old Kentucky Robert, the Confederate Son Short[1]: 1437 
1909 The Hessian Renegades Short
1909 A Corner in Wheat The wheat king's assistant Short[1]: 1437 
1909 Fools of Fate Short
1909 A Trap for Santa Claus Arthur Short
1909 In Little Italy Victor Short
1909 The Day After Party Guest Short
1909 Choosing a Husband Harry Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1909 Getting Even Miner Short
1910 The Honor of His Family George Pickett Jr. Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1910 In Old California Perdita's Son Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1910 The Two Brothers Pedro Short
Lost film
1910 The Kid Walter Holden Short
Lost film
1910 The Gold Seekers The Prospector Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1910 Ramona Alessandro Short
1910 In the Border States Confederate Corporal Short, Uncredited
1910 The House with Closed Shutters The Confederate Soldier Short
1910 The Sorrows of the Unfaithful Bill Short[1]: 1437 
1910 A Summer Idyl Albert Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1910 The Oath and the Man Henri Prevost Short[1]: 1437 
1910 Rose O'Salem-Town The Trapper Short
1910 The Armorer's Daughter Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1911 A Little Child The Burglar Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1912 The Miser's Daughter The Miser's Daughter's Sweetheart Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1912 Home Folks Short[1]: 1437 
1912 The Inner Circle Short
1912 A Change of Spirit First Gentleman Thief Short
Lost film
1912 Two Daughters of Eve The Father Short
1912 Friends Dandy Jack Short[1]: 1437 
1912 So Near, Yet So Far Short
1912 A Feud in the Kentucky Hills Psalm Singer Short
1912 In the Aisles of the Wild Jim Watson Short
Lost film
1912 The One She Loved The Husband Short
1912 The Painted Lady At Ice Cream Festival Short, Uncredited
1912 My Baby The Husband Short
1912 The Informer The false Brother Short
1912 Brutality In Play Short
1912 My Hero Indian Charlie Short
Lost film
1912 The Burglar's Dilemma Householder's Weakling Brother Short
1912 The God Within The Woodsman Short
1913 Three Friends Ned Billings - the Husband Short
Lost film
1913 Oil and Water The Idealist Short[1]: 1437 
1913 Love in an Apartment Hotel The Young Woman's Fiancé Short
Lost film
1913 Broken Ways The Road Agent Short[1]: 1437 
1913 The Sheriff's Baby First Bandit Short
Lost film
1913 The Perfidy of Mary Poet Short
1913 The Lady and the Mouse The 1st Rival Short
1913 If We Only Knew The Father Short
Lost film
1913 The Wanderer The Wanderer Short
1913 The Tenderfoot's Money The Prospector Short
Lost film
1913 The Stolen Loaf The Poor Man Short
Lost film
1913 The House of Darkness Minor Role Short
1913 Red Hicks Defies the World In Crowd Short
Lost film
1913 Death's Marathon The Husband Short[1]: 1437 
1913 The Switch Tower The Switchman Short
1913 The Mothering Heart Club Patron Short, Uncredited
1913 The Mistake Jack, the Friend, a Prospector Short
Lost film
1913 A Gambler's Honor Beth's Brother Short
Lost film
1913 During the Round-Up The Stranger Short
Lost film
1913 The Mirror The Station Agent Short
Lost film
1913 The Vengeance of Galora Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1913 Two Men of the Desert First Partner Short[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1913 A Woman in the Ultimate Member of the Badger Gang Short
Lost film
1913 The Wedding Gown [1]: 1437 
1913 The Battle at Elderbush Gulch Indian Chief's Son Short[1]: 1437 
1913 The Little Tease The Valley Man
1914 Classmates Duncan Irving Short[11]
1914 The Green-Eyed Devil Short
Lost film
1914 The Gangsters of New York[1]: 1437  Porky Dugan Short
Lost film[11]
1914 Judith of Bethulia Holofernes [12]
1914 Strongheart Soangataha / Strongheart Short,[1]: 1437 
Lost film
1914 The Floor Above Stephen Pryde Short
Lost film [12]
1914 Ashes of the Past Lost film [1]: 1437 
1914 Home, Sweet Home John Howard Payne [1]: 1437 [11]
1914 The Mountain Rat Douglas Williams Short
Lost film[1]: 1437 [12]
1914 Lord Chumley Lord Chumley Short[11]
1914 Man's Enemy Short
1914 The Avenging Conscience The Nephew [11]
1914 The Odalisque Joe, in love with May Short
Lost film[1]: 1437 
1915 The Birth of a Nation Col. Ben Cameron [12]
1915 Beulah Dr. Guy Hartwell Lost film [11]
1915 Ghosts Captain Arling / Oswald [1]: 1437 [12]
1915 The Raven Edgar Allan Poe [11]
1915 The Woman Hater Lost film [1]: 1437 
1916 The Misleading Lady Jack Craigen Lost film [11]
1916 The Strange Case of Mary Page Phil Langdon, Attorney Serial
Lost film
1916 The Birth of a Man Lost film [12]
1916 The Sting of Victory[1] David Whiting/Walker Whiting Lost film [11]
1916 The Pillars of Society Karsten Bernick Lost film [1]: 1437 [12]
1916 The Truant Soul Dr. John Lancaster / Dr. Lawson Lost film [11]
1917 Little Shoes David Noel Lost film [11]
1917 Burning the Candle James Maxwell Lost film [11]
1917 The Saint's Adventure Rev. Paul Manson Lost film [11]
1917 National Association's All-Star Picture Lost film [12]
1918 His Robe of Honor Julian Randolph Lost film [11]
1918 Humdrum Brown Hector "Humdrum" Brown [11]
1918 With Hoops of Steel Emerson Mead Lost film [11]
1918 The Great Love Sir Roger Brighton Lost film [11]
1918 And a Still Small Voice Clay Randolph Lost film [11]
1919 The Long Lane's Turning Harry Sevier [11]
1919 The False Faces Michael Lanyard, "The Lone Wolf" [11]
1919 Modern Husbands Stephen Duane Lost film [11]
1919 The Boomerang George Gray [11]
1919 The Long Arm of Mannister George Mannister Lost film [11]
1920 The Confession Father Bartlett [11]
1920 Parted Curtains Joe Jenkins Lost film [11]
1920 A Splendid Hazard Karl Breitman Lost film [11]
1921 Flower of the North Philip Whittemore [11]
1922 The Ableminded Lady Breezy Bright Lost film [11]
1922 One Clear Call Henry Garnett [11]
1922 The Kickback Aaron Price Lost film [11]
1922 The Long Chance Harley P. Hennage Lost film [11]
1922 The Marriage Chance Dr. Paul Graydon Lost film [11]
1923 The Face on the Bar-Room Floor Robert Stevens Lost film [11]
1923 Gimme John McGimsey Lost film
1923 The Unknown Purple Peter Marchmont / Victor Cromport Lost film [11]
1923 Boy of Mine William Latimer Lost film [11]
1924 The Woman on the Jury Prosecuting Attorney Lost film [11]
1924 Single Wives Franklin Dexter [11]
1924 The Bowery Bishop Norman Strong Lost film [11]
1925 The Golden Bed Colonel Peake [12]
1925 On the Threshold Andrew Masters [11]
1925 The Girl Who Wouldn't Work William Hale [11]
1925 Kit Carson Over the Great Divide Dr. Samuel Webb [11]
1925 Kentucky Pride Mr. Beaumont [11]
1925 Dollar Down Alec Craig [11]
1925 Simon the Jester Brandt Lost film [11]
1925 The Plastic Age Henry Carver [11]
1926 Three Faces East George Bennett [12]
1926 The Barrier Gale Gaylord Lost film [11]
1926 The Unknown Soldier Mr. Phillips [11]
1926 The Road to Mandalay Father James [11]
1926 The Scarlet Letter Roger Chillingworth [11]
1926 Everybody's Acting Thorpe Lost film [12]
1927 Fighting Love Filipo Navarro [11]
1927 The Enchanted Island Tim Sanborn Lost film [11]
1927 Wings Mr. Armstrong [11]
1927 The Rose of Kildare Bob Avery Lost film [11]
1927 Love Me and the World Is Mine Van Denbosch [11]
1927 A Light in the Window Johann Graff Lost film [11]
1927 London After Midnight Sir James Hamlin Lost film [11]
1928 Retribution Henry / Tommy Mooney Short, Vitaphone Varieties 2418
1928 Freedom of the Press John Ballard Lost film [11]
1929 The Jazz Age Mr. Maxwell
1929 Stark Mad Captain Rhodes Lost film [11]
1929 Speakeasy Fuzzy Lost film [11]
1929 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Father Juniper [11]
1929 From Headquarters Buffalo Bill Ryan Lost film [11]
1929 River of Romance Gen. Jeff Rumford [11]
1929 Black Magic Dr. Bradbroke Lost film [11]
1929 Street Corner Short
1929 In Old California Don Pedro DeLeón [1]: 1437 [11]
1929 The Phantom in the House Boyd Milburn [11]
1929 The Trespasser Fuller [11]
1930 Blaze o' Glory Burke Lost film [11]
1930 Temple Tower Blackton [11]
1930 Abraham Lincoln Colonel Marshall [11]
1930 The Love Trader Captain Adams [11]
1930 Tol'able David Amos Hatburn [11]
1931 Is There Justice? District Attorney John Raymond Lost film [11]
1931 Anybody's Blonde Mr. Evans [11]
1932 Police Court Nat Barry [11]
1932 Hotel Continental Winthrop [11]
1932 Strange Interlude Professor Leeds [11]
1932 Alias Mary Smith Atwell [11]
1932 Chandu the Magician Robert Regent [11]
1932 Ride Him, Cowboy John Gaunt [11]
1932 Klondike Mark Armstrong [11]
1932 The Cabin in the Cotton Eph Clinton [11]
1932 Me and My Gal Sarge [11]
1932 Central Park Eby [11]
1932 Self Defense Dr. Borden [11]
1933 42nd Street The Actor Uncredited[11]
1933 The Whispering Shadow J.D. Bradley - Company President Serial[1]: 1437 
1933 The Flaming Signal Rev. James [11]
1933 Somewhere in Sonora Bob Leadly [11]
1933 Hold Your Man Clergyman in Alternate Version Uncredited
1933 Laughing at Life Presidente Valenzuela [11]
1933 Headline Shooter Judge Beacon Uncredited[11]
1933 Her Forgotten Past Mr. Maynard [11]
1933 The Wolf Dog Jim Courtney Serial
1933 The Sin of Nora Moran Father Ryan [11]
1934 Dark Hazard Schultz Uncredited[11]
1934 Beggars in Ermine Marchant the Blind Man
1934 Men in White Dr. McCabe [2]
1934 Viva Villa! Francisco I. Madero [5]
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 [11]
1934 The Scarlet Letter Roger Chillingworth [11]
1934 The Lemon Drop Kid Jonas Deering [1]: 1437 [5]
1934 A Girl of the Limberlost Dr. Ammon [11]
1934 Love Time Duke Johann von Hatzfeld
1934 Bachelor of Arts Professor Barth [11]
1935 Helldorado Abner Meadows [1]: 1437 
1935 Dante's Inferno Pop McWade [11]
1935 A Tale of Two Cities Dr. Manette [11]
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 Yates Screening on Broadway when Walthall died[5][11]
1936 The Devil-Doll Marcel [11]
1936 China Clipper Dad Brunn Walthall collapsed on the set after completing his scenes[11] and died three weeks later[5]
(final film role)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an Katz, Ephraim (1998). The Film Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-273492-1.
  2. ^ a b c d "Obituaries: Henry B. Walthall". Variety: 78. June 24, 1936. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Chats with the Players: Henry B. Walthall". Motion Picture Magazine: 113–115. October 1915. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Henry B. Walthall, Silent Era People website
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "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.
  6. ^ "Henry B. Walthall". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  7. ^ Capra, Frank (1971). The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography. New York: The MacMillan Company. OCLC 468875274.
  8. ^ a b Gish, Lillian (1969). Lillian Gish: The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. OCLC 3175012.
  9. ^ "New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch ( : 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.
  10. ^ “Walthall Has Divorce.” Variety, 22 Nov. 1918, p. 47.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs ct cu cv cw "Henry B. Walthall". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Henry Walthall". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved December 22, 2014.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 June 2024, at 18:38
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