Saturday, November 2, 2013

Everyone's Favorite Martian

Happy birthday to Ray Walston, born November 2, 1914 in New Orleans, Louisiana, and beloved to Baby Boomers as the out-of-this-world star of CBS' My Favorite Martian. The fantasy sitcom, which cast Walston as a professor from Mars whose spaceship crashes and strands him on Earth, was a Top Ten hit in its first season (1963-64), and enjoyed a three-year run on network TV. An established stage actor, Walston hoped the series would overcome the typecasting he'd experienced since playing devilish Mr. Applegate in the Broadway hit Damn Yankees (a role he reprised for the 1958 film version).

TV's funniest spaceman.
Ironically, the popularity of My Favorite Martian only made the problem worse, as his memorable interpretation of "Uncle Martin" made some producers hesitant to cast him in other roles. Walston did, however, go on to play the frustrated high school history teacher Mr. Hand in the popular movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), and enjoyed late-in-life success as Judge Henry Bone on TV's Picket Fences prior to his death in 2001.

Walston's working relationship with My Favorite Martian producer Jack Chertok wasn't always amiable. In 1964, he grumbled to columnist Dick Kleiner, "I think that I was in a large measure responsible for the success of My Favorite Martian. I know that in at least 19 of the shows last season I had to use my acting experience to overcome bad scripts." Still, kids and adults alike loved the show, and made Walston a television star.

For a fun 50th anniversary tribute to Walston's show, direct your antenna here. You can also hear the catchy theme music, courtesy of YouTube.

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