b. Walter Houghston, 6 April 1884, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, d. 7 April 1950, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA. Although Huston had studied engineering, he became an actor and worked in vaudeville and on the legitimate stage in New York. Following his marriage and the birth of his son, John Huston (who would become a noted Hollywood film director), he returned to engineering. The call of the stage was too strong, however, and by 1909 Huston was back in vaudeville working as a singer and dancer both as a single and in duo as the song and dance act of Whipple And Huston. In the mid-20s, and by now divorced, he again tried the legitimate theatre, playing leading roles on Broadway in Mr. Pitt and Desire Under The Elms.
In the late 20s, Huston went to Hollywood where actors with stage experience were at a premium for the new talking pictures. From 1929 and through the following decade he made some 20 films, often because of his age and upright bearing playing statesmen and businessmen. These films included The Virginian (1929), playing the title role in Abraham Lincoln (1930), The Criminal Code (1931), The Wet Parade, Rain (both 1932), Gabriel Over The White House (1933), the title role in Dodsworth (1936, for which he won the New York Film Critics award as Best Actor), and Of Human Hearts (1938). He returned to Broadway in 1938 to play Peter Stuyvesant in Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s Knickerbocker Holiday, a role he repeated in a radio production. It was in this show that Huston introduced ‘September Song’ and despite numerous recordings by other artists, his version of the song remains one of the most poignant. During the 40s Huston again played a variety of film roles, among them were The Devil And Daniel Webster, The Maltese Falcon (both 1941, with his son John directing the latter), and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942, in which he portrayed Jerry Cohan). Other films of the decade were Mission To Moscow (1943), Dragonwyck (1946) and The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, the latter also directed by his son. For his performance as a crazy old prospector in this film, Huston won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.