Henry B. Walthall

Active - 1909 - 2002  |   Born - Mar 16, 1878   |   Died - Jun 17, 1936   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Frail-looking but iron-willed American actor Henry B. Walthall set out to become a lawyer, but was drawn to the stage instead. After several seasons appearing opposite such luminaries as Henry Miller and Margaret Anglin, Walthall was firmly established in New York's theatrical circles by the time he entered films in 1909 at the invitation of director D.W. Griffith. Clearly, both men benefited from the association: Griffith was able to exploit Walthall's expertise and versatility, while Walthall learned to harness his tendency to overact. The best of the Griffith/Walthall collaborations was Birth of a Nation (1915), in which Walthall portrayed the sensitive Little Colonel. Walthall left Griffith in 1915, a move that did little to advance his career. A string of mediocre productions spelled finis to Walthall's stardom, though he continued to prosper in character parts into the 1930s. One of his best showings in the talkie era was a virtual replay of his Little Colonel characterization in the closing scenes of the 1934 Will Rogers vehicle Judge Priest. Henry B. Walthall died while filming the 1936 Warner Bros. film China Clipper; ironically, he passed away just before he was scheduled to film his character's death scene.

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