Walter Woolf King



American actor/singer Walter Woolf King was the son of a wholesale whisky salesman. Upon moving with his family to Salt Lake City, young King began singing in Mormon churches; leaving school after the death of his father, the boy decided to make singing his full-time avocation and headed for vaudeville with his friend, pianist Charles LeMaire (later an Oscar-winning costume designer). Making his Broadway bow in The Passing Show of 1919, King became a popular light baritone in several musical comedies and operettas of the '20s. He was then billed as Walter Woolf, but later switched to Walter King, until settling on his full three-barrelled name in the late '30s. King's first film was Warner Bros.' Golden Dawn (1930), but this starring moment was blighted by negative publicity about King's voice, over which the actor sued Warners. After a return to the stage in Music in the Air, King came back to films, though seldom as a star. Modern audiences know King best from his second-lead appearance in Laurel and Hardy's Swiss Miss (1938) and from his two Marx Brothers films, A Night at the Opera(1935) (in which he played villainous opera star Lassparri) and Go West (1940) (in which he was a villain again, albeit non-singing). Working with success in radio in the '40s, King was less lucky in films; he was reduced to B-pictures at such studios as Monogram and PRC, permitted to play leads only because the younger male stars had gone to war. Tired of his lackluster film career, King became an actor's agent in the late '40s, accepting only small, sometimes unbilled movie character roles for himself; he did however host a moderately popular 1950 TV talent show, Lights, Camera, Action. In the '60s, King, now greyer and stockier, found himself in demand for good supporting parts as stuffy corporate types, as in the 1968 Rosalind Russell picture Rosie. In the months just prior to his death, Walter Woolf King was seen around Hollywood in the company of Della Lind, who four decades earlier had played his wife in Swiss Miss (1938).