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O–Q Entries
Simon Oakland
Arch Oboler
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Walter Pidgeon
Jack P. Pierce
Vincent Price
Anthony Quinn
 
PIDGEON, WALTER
(1897–1984). Canadian actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: The Gorilla (silent) (Alfred Santell 1927); The Gorilla (Bryan Foy 1931); The Glass Slipper (narrator; uncredited) (Charles Walters 1955); Forbidden Planet (Fred M. WILCOX 1956); Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Irwin ALLEN 1961); Cinderella (tv movie) (Charles Dubin 1965); The Screaming Woman (tv movie) (Jack SMIGHT 1972); The Neptune Disaster (Daniel Petrie 1973).
 
Poor Walter Pidgeon. At least, that is surely how he would have characterized himself. After years of hard work in films, with appearances in two versions of the clunky horror film The Gorilla long forgiven and forgotten, Pidgeon had established himself as a prominent leading man in MGM's prestigious company of contract players, twice nominated for an Academy Award. But then it all fell apart: locked into an antiquated, theatrical style of acting, and lacking the genuine charm of a Ronald Colman or the comedic flair of a Vincent PRICE, Pidgeon increasingly found that his services were no longer wanted for major Hollywood films. The inevitable alternative was minor Hollywood films, such as science fiction films—and when MGM finally decided to make one, they obviously thought it might be one good way to make use of an expensive contract player who no longer seemed suitable for their top productions.

So, when assigned to Forbidden Planet, Pidgeon must have lamented: once, I co-starred with the biggest names in Hollywood. Now, I will be co-starring with a cast of unknowns, a stunt man in a robot suit, and an invisible monster animated by Walt Disney Studios. As a trouper if nothing else, Pidgeon did endeavor to play the unhinged Dr. Morbius with as much energy and conviction that he could muster, which is to say, with not enough energy and conviction; yet his palpable displeasure with his surroundings oddly harmonized with the character of a man who wants to avoid the annoying company of other people, and when he politely informs Leslie NIELSEN and his crewmates that he wants them to just go away, he momentarily seems quite sincere. It could also be argued that his strange, stentorian manner of speaking accurately reflected the peculiar mental state of a man who has spent too much time having his mind altered by alien technology. If not one of the great performances in science fiction film, it is at least one of its most striking performances, and one must credit Pidgeon for some of the film's success.

Once an actor goes slumming, people expect him to do it again, so he soon found himself starring in Irwin ALLEN's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. But this time, there were no fortuitous circumstances to make Pidgeon's acting memorable. In fact, his performance as Admiral Harriman Nelson was so stunningly vacuous, and the work of his successor Richard BASEHART so vastly superior, as to have these unusual results: today, his film is forgotten and never seen, while the television series based on the film is fondly remembered and still occasionally surfaces on cable television.

In his subsequent ventures into the fantastic, Pidgeon seemed happy only when playing the king in a television production of Cinderella, which perhaps served as a pleasant reminder that he had once been a member of Hollywood royalty. As his declining health forced him into retirement, one wonders if he was beginning to realize that people no longer cared about Mrs. Miniver (1942), and that the only reason Pidgeon would likely be remembered was for his performance in a science fiction film he had never wanted to make. For, with its infinite generosity, science fiction is always capable of cherishing performers who had never cherished science fiction.

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