A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, American actor Walter Abel began his stage career in 1919, and made his first film in 1920. Tall and quietly dignified, Abel was well cast in several of the plays of Eugene O'Neill. His first talking picture role was as the industrious young bridegroom Wolf in Liliom (1930). Abel had a go at a romantic lead when he replaced Francis Lederer as D'Artagnan in the 1935 version of The Three Musketeers; but the film was dull and Abel's performance mannered, so, thereafter, he was more effectively cast in top supporting roles. With his performance as the prosecuting attorney in Fury, Abel established his standard screen image: the well-groomed, mustachioed professional man, within whom lurked a streak of barely controlled hysteria. In this guise, Abel was excellent as the dyspeptic newspaper editor in Arise My Love (1940) and as Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire's long-suffering agent in Holiday Inn (1942). Busier on stage and television than in films during the 1950s, Abel received extensive critical and public attention for his role as a doomed industrialist in the 1966 melodrama Mirage. Sent out by Universal to promote the film, Abel regaled talk-show hosts with the story of how his fatal plunge from a skyscraper was actually filmed. Also during this period, Abel was appointed president of the American National Theatre and Academy. His last screen performance was opposite Katharine Hepburn in The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley (1984).
by Hal Erickson biography