Walter Hampden

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Walter Hampden
File:Walter Hampden 1951.jpg
in 1951
Born Walter Hampden Dougherty
(1879-06-30)June 30, 1879
Brooklyn, New York, US
Died June 11, 1955(1955-06-11) (aged 75)
Los Angeles, California, US
Occupation Stage, film, television actor, theatre manager
Years active ca. 1900-1955
Spouse(s) Mabel Moore (1905-?) 2 children

Walter Hampden is the artist name of Walter Hampden Dougherty (June 30, 1879 in Brooklyn – June 11, 1955 in Los Angeles) was an American actor and theatre manager. He was a major stage star at the New York Broadway who also made numerous television and film appearances.

Life and Career

Walter Hampden was the son of John Hampden Dougherty and Alice Hill. He was a younger brother of the American painter Paul Dougherty (1877-1947).[1] He went to England for apprenticeship for six years. He graduated from what is now NYU Poly, in 1900.[2] Later, he played Hamlet, Henry V and Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. In 1925, he became manager of the Colonial Theatre on Broadway, which was renamed Hampden's Theatre from 1925 to 1931.[3] He became noted for his Shakespearean roles as well as for Cyrano, which he played in several productions between 1923 and 1936. He appeared on the cover of the Time Magazine in March 1929.[4] Hampden's last stage role was as Danforth in the original Broadway production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.[5]

John Garrett Underhill produced the first English-language version of The Bonds of Interest (Los intereses creados) by Jacinto Benavente, with Walter Hampden, in 1929.[6]

File:Walter Hampden Oberon.jpg
Walter Hampden as Oberon in A Midsummer Nights Dream, circa 1905

Hampden appeared in a few silent films, but did not really begin his film career in earnest until 1939, when he played the good Archbishop of Paris[7] (Frollo's brother) in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo. This was Hampden's first sound film; he was sixty at the time he made it. Several other roles followed—Jarvis Langdon in the 1944 film The Adventures of Mark Twain among them, but all were supporting character roles, not the lead roles that Hampden played onstage. He had a small, but notable role as the long-winded dinner speaker in the first scene of All About Eve (1950), and played the father of Humphrey Bogart and William Holden in Billy Wilder's 1954 comedy Sabrina. These last two films are arguably those for which Hampden is most well known to modern audiences. He also played long-bearded patriarchs in biblical epics like The Silver Chalice (1954) and The Prodigal (1955). (In The Silver Chalice, he was Joseph of Arimathea.)

Hampden reprised his legendary portrayal of Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac in the first episode of the radio program Great Scenes from Great Plays, which Hampden hosted from 1948-1949. In addition to his radio roles (The Adventures of Leonidas Witherall), Hampden also appeared in several dramas during the early days of television. He made his TV debut in 1949, playing Macbeth for the last time at the age of 69.

His last role was the non-singing one of King Louis XI of France, considered by some to be one of his best performances, in the otherwise unremarkable 1956 Technicolor remake of Rudolf Friml's 1925 operetta The Vagabond King. It was released posthumously, more than a year after Hampden's death.

For 27 years, Walter Hampden was president of the Players' Club. The club's library is named for him.

His ashes are buried at The Evergreen Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Personal life

Hampden married actress Mabel Carrie Moore (1879-1978) on 17 July 1905. They had a son, Paul Hampden Dougherty, and a daughter, Mary Moore Dougherty.


External Links


  1. Great Stars of the American Stage, A Pictorial Record by Daniel Blum, Profile #61 c. 1952 (this 2nd edition c. 1954)
  6. "John G. Underhill, Producer, 70, Dies; Authority on Venavente and Other Spanish Authors Was Translator and Writer". The New York Times. May 17, 1946. Retrieved 1 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. IMDb Walter Hampden