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Will Geer

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Biography

The formative years of Will Geer:

William Auge Geer was born March 9, 1902 in Frankfort, Indiana. He attended the University of Chicago and Columbia University. He later joined the Group Theatre, which was established in New York. This group tended to hold left-wing political views, wishing to create plays dealing with social issues.

Geer later moved to Hollywood, where he debuted as an actor in 1928 in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He also appeared in many other films such as Deep Waters, Broken Arrow, and Lust for Gold.

He was an active member in radical political organizations during the 1930's and 1940's. He was later blacklisted after refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) about the political views of other people in the Hollywood film industry. Once he was blacklisted, he was denied the opportunities to work in Hollywood, so he returned to theatre, moving to Topanga Canyon, California. He created a theatre known as Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, which was almost a sanctuary for him and others blacklisted.  He and his wife Herta divorced in 1954, after having to deal with the dramatic changes in their lives.  He later moved to Stratford, Connecticut, and began running his own Folks day Theatre in Greenwich Village.  However, once the blacklist was removed, he was able to return to Hollywood in 1962 after Otto Preminger cast him in Advise and Consent, becoming "one of the first blacklisted actors to return to the silver screen" (Finch).  He later reconciled with his wife and children, and began appearing on The Waltons as Grandpa Zebulon Walton. 

He later died in Los Angeles before filming a new season of The Waltons. He was a loved man by many, being described by Helen Hayes as a "folklorist" and "the world's oldest hippie." He loved to travel and to feel close to the land. "He was universally loved. He was a great old actor who brought to The Waltons a twinkle in his eye, a strong shoulder to lean on, and a free spirit. He was kindly, wise, compassionate, funny, and he obviously loved life. He is sorely missed" (Zebulon Walton(Will Geer)). In the end, Will Geer was, "a national treasure," as said by Earl Hamner.

He always liked to say, "If you live long enough, everything good will happen to you-even a television series," which was what happened to him (Finch).

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Will Geer

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Date of Birth: March 9, 1902


Birthplace:
Frankfort, IN


Date of Death:
April 22, 1978

 

Cause of Death: Respiratory Failure

 

Occupation: Actor

 

Wife: Herta Ware

 

Daughter: Kate Geer, Thad Geer, and Ellen Geer

 

Most Known for roles on: The Waltons and The Homecoming

 

Education: University of Chicago and Columbia University