Abel, Walter, 1898-1987

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1898-06-06
Death 1987-03-26
English

Biographical notes:

An actor on stage, film, radio, and television, Abel's career spanned sixty years.

He was born on June 6, 1898 in St. Paul, Minnesota and studied for the stage at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, 1917-1918. He made his first professional appearance in the 1918 film Out of a Clear Sky, and his Broadway debut in Forbidden at the Manhattan Opera House in 1919. His early career was on the New York stage where he appeared in plays by Eugene O'Neill and others. His film career began in earnest when he starred as D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers in 1935. He appeared in over sixty films, usually in supporting roles, often playing district attorneys or harrassed fathers. Abel returned to the stage after World War II and in his later years was also a concert narrator or reader.

Abel was active in many professional theatrical associations, serving as a council member of Actor's Equity, a vice president of the Screen Actor's Guild and of the Episcopal Actors Guild, a member of the board of the American National Theater and Academy (ANTA), and president of ANTA (1966-1970). Through ANTA he visited colleges and universities, lecturing and acting in and directing plays.

Abel was married to Marietta Bitter, a concert harpist.

From the description of Walter Abel papers, 1900-1976, 1916-1975. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122431785

An actor on stage, film, radio, and television, Walter Abel's career spanned sixty years. He was born on June 6, 1898 in St. Paul, Minnesota to Richard Michael Abel and Christine Becker Abel and studied for the stage at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, 1917-1918. He made his first professional appearance in the 1918 film Out of a Clear Sky, and his Broadway debut in Dorothy Donnelly's Forbidden at the Manhattan Opera House in 1919.

His early career was on the New York stage where he was steadily employed through the 1920s and 1930s appearing in among others, William Shakespeare's As You Like It (1923), Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms (1924), William Congreve's Love for Love (1925), Channing Pollack's The Enemy (1925), Anton Chekhov's The Seagull (1929-1930), O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra (1932), Rachel Crother's When Ladies Meet (1932), and George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's Merrily We Roll Along (1934). In 1929 he made his London debut in Coquette by George Abbott and Ann Preston Bridgers.

His film career took off in 1935 when he starred as D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers . He subsequently appeared in over sixty films, usually in supporting roles, often playing district attorneys or harrassed fathers. Films include Fury, We Went to College, Arise My Love, Hold Back the Dawn, Beyond the Blue Horizon, Holiday Inn, Mr. Skeffington, Kiss and Tell, Skylark, So This Is Love, Raintree County and others. His final picture, filmed in 1983, released in 1985, was Grace Quigley starring Katharine Hepburn and Nick Nolte.

Following World War II, Abel returned to Broadway and was seen in John Van Druten's The Mermaids Singing (1945), William McCleery's The Parlor Story (1947), Joshua Logan's The Wisteria Tree with Helen Hayes (1952), Samuel Taylor's The Pleasure of His Company (1958) and Eduardo de Filippo's Saturday Sunday Monday (1974). He toured Europe in 1949 as Claudius in the American National Theater and Academy (ANTA)'s production of Hamlet . His final New York stage appearance was in a 1975 revival of Arthur Pinero's Trelawny of the 'Wells' .

Beginning in the 1950s, Abel was often a concert narrator or reader. He said at the time that the two theatrical experiences he prized most were with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy in Aaron Copeland's Portrait of Lincoln (1951), and Arthur Honegger's King David (1952). He was also a reader in Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood in 1953.

Abel was active in many professional theatrical associations, serving as a council member of Actors' Equity, a vice president of the Screen Actors' Guild and of the Episcopal Actors Guild, a member of the board of ANTA (1961-1973), and its president (1966-1970). Through ANTA he visited colleges and universities, lecturing and acting in and directing plays.

In 1926 Abel married Marietta Bitter, a concert harpist and daughter of the sculptor Karl Bitter. They had three sons. She died in 1979. Walter Abel died in a nursing home in Essex, Connecticut on March 26, 1987.

From the guide to the Walter Abel papers, 1900-1976, 1916-1975, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Actors
  • Communism
  • College theater
  • Censorship
  • Motion pictures
  • World War, 1939-1945--Motion pictures and the war
  • Theater
  • Television
  • Theater--United States

Occupations:

  • Actors--United States

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)