Here, Robert Walker
New York Sunday News
May 3, 1964
by Jack Leahy
WHEN ROBERT WALKER appears on a movie or TV screen, comparisons inevitably are made between him and his late father. In features and mannerisms, the 24-year-old actor is the image of the man who starred in "See Here, Private Hargrove" and other top films of the .40s. Bob's mother is Oscar winner Jennifer Jones who now is married to producer David 0. Selznick.
"It's a compliment to me if I remind people of my father,.. says Bob. "'He was a fine, marvelous actor who did some great things even at an early stage in his career. On the other hand, everything I've done so-far has been pretty lousy.
""Actually, I don't think two actors can be validly compared unless they have played the same part. Then critics might be able to say whether they enjoyed one more than the other in that role. To compare different individuals in different pictures doesn't make much sense."
Bob's modest estimation of his own ability is far below that of the general consensus of critical appraisal. His efforts have been well received in 'The Defenders," "The Ilth Hour," "Dr. Kildare," and other TV dramas. In 1963, he made his movie debut in "The Hook.' with Kirk Douglas. This year, the 5'8", 137-pound performer moves up to more important parts in "The Ceremony" with Laurence Harvey and in the title role of '"Ensign Pulver" In "Pulver", Bob plays a character handled to perfection by Jack Lemmon in the movie, "'Mr. Roberts.".
1 don't think there will be much similarity between my portrayal and Jack Lemmon's,'. Bob says. "I hav-en't seen 'Mr. Roberts' but from what I've heard, Jack.s 'Pulver'. must have been more comical than mine. They wanted something more serious for the sequel.".
Considering Bob's family background, it seems only natural that he became an actor. But it took some years of soul-searching before he found ,the desire to follow in his father's footsteps. Born in New York, Bob was 11 years old when Robert Sr. died at the age of 32. Although he claims to have had a happy childhood, Bob bounced through some 14 schools as an adolescent. He became interested in writing for the stage-and as a means to this end, studied under drama coach Lee Strasberg. This led to summer stock. Before long, it became evident that Bob's heritage was not to be denied.
know whether or not heredity had anything to do with it," reflects Bob:
sible-anything is possible. We do inherit physical characteristics and these are very impor-
tant in the acting profession. And many people are born with a facility or talent which predisposes them to enter a particular field. But these so-called innate things do not eliminate the need for study and work.
"Anyone who wants to be a good actor rather than just a personality must have the will to learn. Unfortunately, too many young actors, especially in America, feel they've reached the pinnucle after a couple of applauded performances. They have comfortable homes with a couple of cars in the garage and figure, 'What the heck, the public likes me, why gild the lily?' They fail to realize that whether you're a concert pianist or a butcher, there is always room for improvement.
"I think learning makes life interesting." continues the intense young star. "If you stop learning, you become stagnant, complacent, and when this happens, you might as well be dead. I consider myself a novice. I would like to -be-.able to develop as an actor in obscurity. The -success I've had, such as it is, is wonderful and I don't want to sound as if I'm complaining about it. But everything I do is under a spot- light. I'm really just being born as an actor and birth should be a more private affair."
While studying with Strasberg, Bob met his future wife, actress Ellie Wood. They were wed in 1961 and are the parents of two children, . Michele, 2; and David, 1. Michele was named for Bob's younger brother, Michael, also an actor who recently guest-starred on an episode of NBC-TV'S "Mr. Novak" series. Bob's wife will soon be seen in the movie, 'The New Interns." Shooting on Bob's next film, "Temple of Gold," is scheduled to start within a few months.
"An actor isn't an actor unless he's working," insists Bob. "Maybe one out of every 500 scripts (has the potential to be a very good picture. But if you pass up all of the 499, you won't be offered the one outstanding part. An actor must take the best of the bad and hope that when a good role comes along, there will be a demand for his services."
In Robert Walker's case, the demand is increasing with every performance.