72 (passed away Jun. 25th, 1995)
Dec. 20th, 1922
Rouleau, Saskatchewan, Canada
Bill Walker's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
When he first appeared on stage, playing a character called Alf in a community theatre production in Regina, the reviewer declared that "Alf was inaudible".
That was the last time anybody ever said that about Bill Walker, one of the busiest television personalities of the Fifties and Sixties.
Bill graduated high school at the age of 16, and that was the end of his formal education. But he was a voracious reader and student of history and languages, teaching himself French, German, Spanish and Italian.
Bill's first public appearance was at the age of nine, singing The Wreck of the Old '99 in a kiddie's talent show on CJRM Regina. A singing career was not his destiny, though, but he was hired as an announcer by the same station at the age of 16. He worked there for two years before enlisting in the Air Force in 1941. In 1943, he was assigned to RAF Squadron 77 in Yorkshire, where he piloted a Halifax bomber on 35 missions over Germany, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war, he returned to CJRM as Morning Man and Program Director. At the same time, he began performing in community theatre. After a shaky start as the aforementioned Alf, he went on to win the Best Actor award at the Saskatchewan Regional Drama Festival five years in a row. He was also the only actor to win the Best Actor award at the Dominion Drama Festival twice [1947 and 1950].
One of his first productions was Junior Miss in 1945, where he played the father of a young dancer named Marilyn Whittet. Two years later, they became husband and wife.
In 1950, they moved to Winnipeg, where Bill became the host of the top-rated morning show, Walker's Wigwam, on CKRC.
Then, in 1955, he moved to Toronto, and his face soon became familiar to audiences across Canada, beginning with his weekly appearances on live commercials for Ford during the Ed Sullivan Show. His association with Ford lasted for thirty years. He was also the spokesman for Timex [and their "torture tests"], Wardair, and BA Petroleum, among others. He was equally busy as a commercial announcer in New York, and commuted back and forth regularly.
Bill also hosted and performed on many CBC TV variety shows in the Fifties and Sixties, including THE JACK KANE SHOW, MUSIC '60, WORLD OF SPORT, and PARADE. He was a panelist on LIVE A BORROWED LIFE from 1960-63, and the moderator of FLASHBACK from 1963-66. He was also twice the host of the CNE Grandstand extravaganza. Later, he became the host of the popular charades show, PARTY GAME, with Dinah Christie, Jack Duffy, and Billy Van. Bill was renowned in the industry for his lightning-fast memory; he could learn a script almost instantly, edit it on the fly, improvise changes, and time it perfectly. A valued gift in the days of live television. He was disdainful of cue cards and teleprompters. In between announcing assignments, Bill kept busy as an actor. He appeared in several CBC live dramas in the Fifties and early Sixties. He also appeared on stage in a 1963 review called THAT HAMILTON WOMAN with Barbara Hamilton and Tom Kneebone, for which he also wrote material; and he starred in productions of THE MUSIC MAN, MY FAIR LADY, and MARY MARY. He also appeared in a 1961 Canadian 3D horror film called The Mask (1961). In 1979, Bill returned to his roots, joining CFRB Toronto, where he delivered "The News and His Comments" for six years. Bill retired in 1985, although he still accepted the occasional commercial or acting assignment. One night in 1994, while driving home, he was broadsided by a driver who ran a red light. He suffered a hairline fracture in his neck, which caused him considerable pain, and aged him far beyond his 71 years. He died the following June. Among his many honours were Liberty Magazine's All-Canada talent award for Best Announcer, 1959-'60; the Lions Club International Foundation Melvin Jones Fellow for dedicated humanitarian services; and a Canadian Association of Broadcasters Lifetime Achievement award. Bill and Marilyn had four children: Scott [a CBC radio news anchor]; Debbie [a producer at CHCH TV]; Michael [President of Walker Media]; and Stephen [who is in the media department of BBD&O]. Alf may have been inaudible, but Bill Walker's magnificent voice entertained audiences for decades.
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