RIP Robert Walker Jr. (1940-2019)

Walker Jr.

No matter what movie Walker Jr. was in and what role he was playing, there was no escaping comparisons to his father. This is because Walker Jr. looked exactly like his dad. Even in his roles in offbeat TV shows and counter-culture features, Walker Jr. couldn’t help but draw similarities to his famous father. Robert Walker Jr. was the son of two Hollywood stars: Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones. He definitely looked like a cross between both his noted parents, but it was with his namesake that he drew the most comparisons from. Walker Sr. and Jones separated when Walker Jr. was very young and Walker Sr. would also die when Walker Jr. was still a child. Growing up with acting parents and in the middle of Hollywood certainly had an influence on Walker Jr. who would go into the profession himself.

Hook

Walker trained at the Actors’ Studio and would get start on the screen in a few TV appearances including in episodes of Route 66 and Naked City. Walker’s film debut was a big deal as he played one of the three leading roles in The Hook (1963) alongside the awe-inducing talents of stars Kirk Douglas and Nick Adams. Walker played the most likable of the three roles, as a man who refuses to let the Korean War mar his moral compass. This becomes difficult when bigoted Sgt. Douglas wants him to kill a war prisoner they picked up. The likable persona of Walker’s character along with his vulnerability helps him deliver a stand-out performance. It certainly seemed like the type of role his father would have championed at the start of his career even though Walker Jr. makes it his own.

Ensign Pulver

Walker then won a Golden Globe for “Most Promising Newcomer – Male” for his performance in The Ceremony (1963) which was directed by his co-star in the film, Laurence Harvey. Walker played Harvey’s brother in the movie and no longer playing a morally good character like in The Hook. Walker then garnered the starring role in Joshua Logan’s sequel to Mister Roberts (1955), Ensign Pulver (1964) where he played the title role which was originated on-screen by Jack Lemmon in an Oscar-winning performance. These were obviously big shoes to fill and the film is not the classic that Mister Roberts is today and Walker received unfavorable comparisons to Lemmon at the time of its release.

War Wagon

Walker continued to appear in some movies but they were not up to the quality of something like The Hook until Walker was able to snag a role in the John Wayne western The War Wagon (1967) which reunited him with co-star Kirk Douglas. Afterwards, Walker did get to have a stand-out role in the classic motorcycle film Easy Rider (1969). The image of Walker as a drugged-up hippie with his hair flopped over in front of his eyes is a pretty great one. While Walker’s earlier roles seemed like movies and parts that would have gone to his actor father a decade ago, Easy Rider was something that was too much of the 1960s to have that same callback. Walker’s next movies included Young Billy Young (1969), La route de Salina (1970), and Beware! The Blob (1972).

Star Trek

Many of Walker’s best roles and performances came from television. TV shows where Walker appeared in episodes included Dr. KildareThe DefendersThe Big ValleyStar TrekCombat!The Time TunnelBonanza, ColumboPolice WomanThe Six Million Dollar ManCharlie’s AngelsCHiPsDallasMurder, She Wrote, and L.A. LawWalker also won a Theatre World Award in 1964 for his performances in the off-Broadway shows I Knock at the Door and Pictures in the Hallway.

Walkers

Walker was married three times, all of which ended in divorce. His second wife, Ellie Wood Walker, appeared in Easy Rider with him. Over the course of his three marriages, Walker had eight kids. Walker died yesterday at the age of 79 in Malibu, California.

~Virginia

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