Will Geer

aka Grandpa Walton

Born: 9 March 1902
Died: 22 April 1978

Starting with touring company tent shows and river boats, Will Geer's six-decade acting career included Broadway, movies, television; many Shakespeare roles; one-man performances as Walt Whitman and Mark Twain. He received a 1964 Tony nomination as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in "110 In The Shade," a musical version of the film "The Rainmaker" (1956), but his best known role was his last, Zebulon Walton, grandpa in the long-running television series "The Waltons" (1972-78).

Less well-known was Geer's life-long role as a political agitator and folklorist/folksinger - he toured U.S. government work camps in the 1930s, singing with Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Affairs, and opened a theatre for Blacklisted actors and folk singers on his Topanga property. He also cultivated a large garden and, unable to find work in Hollywood, Will and his family earned a living by selling vegetables, fruit, herbs, and theatre. Geer had a most unusual hobby of raising all the plants mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.

With the advent of television's "The Waltons" and subsequent popularity of Will's portrayal of Grandpa, in 1973 Geer co-founded a non-profit corporation, The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. Audiences flocked to free workshop performances of Shakespeare, folk plays, and concerts featuring such well-known artists as Pete Seeger, Arlo Gutherie, Della Reese & Burl Ives, among others. The beautiful site exists to this day as a professional repertory theatre, incorporating educational programs and musical events.

A check of High Times magazines from 1976/77, the year that pranksters changed the Hollywood sign to read "Hollyweed" as a New Year's joke, reveals that Will Geer said he likes marijuana in his strawberry tea. Geer is sometimes credited as High Ghere (the original spelling of his last name name) and appeared as himself in "Shooting the Moonshine War" (1970) (uncredited).

Another grandpa--Al Lewis from TV's "The Munsters" (1964-66), ran for governor of New York in 1988 on a platform to repeal that state's horrific Rockefeller Drug Laws. We should start listening to our elders.

Source: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002095/bio


Copyright 2006

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