Tony-Winner Ray Walston, of Damn Yankees, Is Dead at 86

News   Tony-Winner Ray Walston, of Damn Yankees, Is Dead at 86 Ray Walston, the actor who made a charming devil in Damn Yankees, a scowling seabee in South Pacific (on stage and in the film version) and a quirky alien in TV's "My Favorite Martian," died Jan. 1 at the age of 86, according to his agent.
Joan McCracken and Ray Walston in 1953's Me and Juliet.
Joan McCracken and Ray Walston in 1953's Me and Juliet.

Ray Walston, the actor who made a charming devil in Damn Yankees, a scowling seabee in South Pacific (on stage and in the film version) and a quirky alien in TV's "My Favorite Martian," died Jan. 1 at the age of 86, according to his agent.

The character actor had a varied career that took him from the late 1940s up to quirky TV roles in the 1990s, including a recurring part on "Picket Fences." In September 2000, he did a guest spot on "Touched By An Angel." The wire services said he died after a short illness.

Mr. Walston won a Tony Award playing devil-in-disguise Mr. Applegate in the musical, Damn Yankees, and recreated the role for the film version and played part of the national tour. He got to sing the choice vaudeville-style tune, "Those Were the Good Old Days," in which his Satan longed for "that glorious morn Jack the Ripper was born" and fondly recalled "the hopes that were dashed when the stock market crashed."

In the film of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," he was frustrated but lovable seabee Luther Billis, wailing "There is Nothin' Like a Dame," with his pals. He toured 10 cities as Billis in the national tour of South Pacific and sat down with it for a year in Chicago. He also appeared as Billis in London.

In 1953, he appeared as the stage manager, Mac, in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Me and Juliet, a backstage tuner that did not have the legs of other R&H shows. His character was a stage manager who did not believe in having relationships with actresses. Despite being known for musicals and the famous "My Favorite Martian" sitcom (1962), in which antennae sprouted from his head, Mr. Walston was a legit actor for many years and had played Shakespeare and serious drama on Broadway and around the country.

His Broadway debut was as a walk-on and understudy to Morton DaCosta as Osric in Maurice Evans' Hamlet in 1945. He was Schwartz in The Front Page on Broadway in 1946 and Mr. Kramer in Margo Jones' Broadway production of Summer and Smoke in 1948.

Other Broadway credits include Richard III, House of Flowers, The Rat Race, Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? and more.

Film credits include "Kiss Them For Me," "The Apartment," "Kiss Me, Stupid," "Who's Minding the Store?," "Wives and Lovers," "Tall Story," "Portrait in Black" and more.

Mr. Walston was a New Orleans native whose father was a lumber man. His professional debut was in a tryout in Cleveland, You Touched Me, at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1943.

— By Kenneth Jones