Raymond Walburn

Active - 1929 - 2017  |   Born - Sep 9, 1887   |   Died - Jul 28, 1969   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born in Indiana, Raymond Walburn began his theatrical career in Oakland, California, where his actress mother had relocated. Walburn was 18 when he made his stage debut in MacBeth, for the princely sum of $5 a week; he immediately, albeit inadvertently, established himself as a comic actor when his line "Fillet of a fenny snake" came out as "Fillet of a funny snake." The following year, Walburn was acting in stock in San Francisco, where the old adage "the show must go on" was tested to the utmost when one of his performances was interrupted by the 1906 earthquake (at least, that was his story). In 1911, he made his Broadway bow in Greyhound; it was a flop, as were Walburn's subsequent New York appearances over the next five years. He finally managed to latch onto a hit when he was cast in the long-running Come Out of the Kitchen. Following his World War I service, Walburn hit his stride as a Broadway laughgetter, starring in the original production of George Kelly's The Show Off. After a tentative stab at moviemaking in 1928, Walburn settled in Hollywood full-time in 1934, where his bombastic, lovable-fraud characterizations made him a favorite of such directors as Frank Capra and Preston Sturges. Usually relegated to the supporting-cast ranks, Walburn was given an opportunity to star in Monogram's inexpensive "Henry" series in 1949, an assignment made doubly pleasurable because it gave him the opportunity to work with his lifelong pal Walter Catlett. Retiring after his final screen appearance in The Spoilers (1955), Raymond Walburn revived his Broadway career in 1962 when he was persuaded by producer Harold Prince to play Erronious in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.

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