Walter Burke

Walter Lawrence Burke (August 25, 1908 August 4, 1984) was an American character actor, of stage, film, and television of Irish descent. Usually cast as an Irishman or Englishman, his small stature, distinctive voice, and face made him easily recognizable in even the most minor of roles.

Walter Burke
In a 1959 episode of Peter Gunn
Walter Lawrence Burke

(1908-08-25)August 25, 1908
DiedAugust 4, 1984(1984-08-04) (aged 75)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeLaurelwood Cemetery in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Years active1925–1981

Early life

Burke was born in the Brooklyn borough of New York City to Irish immigrant parents[1] Thomas Burke and Bedelia McNamara Burke. He had one brother and two sisters. His father bred trotting horses, with one farm each in Ireland and Scotland.[1]


Walter Burke began acting on stage as a teenager, making his Broadway debut in Dearest Enemy at the Knickerbocker Theatre during 1925–1926. The following year he performed in a musical revue, Padlocks of 1927 at the Shubert Theatre. He joined the American Opera Company's troupe in January 1928, performing a non-singing role in an English-language adaption of Faust.[2] He continued with that company through January 1930, taking part in adaptions of Madame Butterfly and Yolanda of Cyprus at the Casino Theatre.[3] He next appeared on Broadway with Help Yourself in 1936, and over the next ten years appeared in as many plays.

Burke debuted in Hollywood films in 1948, with The Naked City, and the following year had a memorable role in the Oscar-winning film All the King's Men. Burke would appear in twenty-two more films, and three more Broadway productions, but both film and the stage would soon take a backseat to his television work.

In 1951, Burke played a jockey in the early television series Martin Kane. From then until 1980, he would appear in episodes of 103 different television series, as well as three made-for-television movies. Though never a series regular, he often played different roles in multiple episodes of the same shows. In 1959–60, he appeared five times as Tim Potter in the ABC western series Black Saddle starring Peter Breck. That same season, he appeared on Andrew Duggan's Bourbon Street Beat and John Cassavetes's Johnny Staccato detective series. He portrayed defendant Freddie Green in CBS's Perry Mason in the 1959 episode, "The Case of the Jaded Joker," the first of five appearances in diverse roles. In 1960 he played prosecutor James Blackburn in "The Case of the Ominous Outcast." Among his other roles he played a panhandler and a private detective. He guest starred as Hatfield in the 1961 episode "The Drought" of the syndicated western series Two Faces West. In the 1962–1963 season, he appeared on the CBS anthology series The Lloyd Bridges Show. In the 1965–1966 season, Burke appeared on another ABC western, The Legend of Jesse James. Burke played a magician called "Zeno the Great" in a 1965 (first season) episode of Bewitched entitled "It's Magic". Burke also appeared on an episode of Lost in Space, playing Mr. O.M. in "The Toymaker" (1967). He also appeared in an episode of "Wild Wild West" as the mayor of a town under siege, in Hogan's Heroes as the master safe cracker Alfie the Artiste, and in two episodes of "Bonanza", as Jesse in "Destiny's Child", and as an unsuspecting witness in a trial. In 1970 Burke appeared as Billy Neal in the western TV series The Virginian in the episode titled "The Gift."

Personal life

Burke split most of his later life between Hollywood, where he worked, and his farm in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. While back east, he would sometimes teach dramatics at a local college.


On August 4, 1984, Burke died from emphysema while living at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.[4]

Broadway stage credits


Television credits (partial)

  • Martin Kane: "A Jockey Is Murdered" (1951) ... as Eddie Stevens
  • Johnny Midnight as McVey in untitled episode
  • Tales of Wells Fargo "The Little Man" (1959) ... as Marty Saunders
  • Peter Gunn: "The Torch" (1958) ... as Ditto
  • The Lawless Years: "The Miles Miller Story" (1961) ... as Miles Miller
  • Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond: "Front Runner" (1959) ... as jockey Sam Barry
  • Lawman: "Red Ransom" (1959) ... as Whiskey Jimmie
  • Rescue 8: "Left Hook to Hades" (1959) ... as Mike Thompson
  • Perry Mason: "The Case of the Jaded Joker" (1959) ... as Freddie Green
  • Perry Mason: "The Case of the Ominous Outcast" (1960) ... as James Blackburn
  • Sugarfoot: "The Mysterious Stranger" (1959) ... as Bartender
  • The Man from Blackhawk: 2 episodes, "Death Is the Best Policy" (1959) as Tyce; "The Harpoon Story" (1960) ... as Tom Abbott
  • The Alaskans: 3 episodes, "The Blizzard" (1959) and "The Devil Made Fire" (1960) ... as Jenks in both segments; "Kangaroo Court" (1960) ... as Sid Queed
  • The Islanders: 2 episodes, "Operation Dollar Sign" and "The Phanton Captain" (1960) ... as Mesrob in both segments
  • 77 Sunset Strip: 3 episodes, "The Double Death of Benny Markham (1960) Benny Markham, "The Baker Street Caper" (1962) ... as Riordan, and "Terror in Silence (1963) .... as Joe Dolan
  • Perry Mason: "The Case of the Missing Melody" (1961) ... as Jack Grabba
  • G.E. True: "A Friendly Tribe" (1961) ... as L.B. Prentiss
  • The Wide Country: "Good Old Uncle Walt" (1962) ... as Tim Mayhew
  • Follow the Sun: "Annie Beeler's Place" (1962) ... as Gympy
  • Empire: "Where the Hawk Is Wheeling" (1963) ... as Micah
  • The Lloyd Bridges Show: "The Rising Moon" (1963) ... as O'Farrell
  • The Outer Limits: "The Mutant" (1964)
  • The Outer Limits: "The Invisibles" (1964)
  • Perry Mason: "The Case of the Wooden Nickels" (1964) ... as Jerry Kelso - Panhandler
  • Perry Mason: "The Case of the Crafty Kidnapper" (1966) ... as Private Investigator Adams[5]
  • This Man Dawson: "Plague" (1960) ... as "Jumpy" Higgins
  • The Twilight Zone: "The Big Tall Wish" (1960) ... as Joe Mizell
  • Hawaiian Eye: "Talk and You're Dead" (1961) ... as Kilgore
  • Have Gun–Will Travel: Season 2; Episode 36 (1963) Mr. Abbott: A school teacher who disclosed information to Paladin about the murder of a man by the ex-sheriff.
  • Arrest & Trial: "The Black Flower" (1964) ... as Hoby Osborne
  • Mickey with Mickey Rooney: "For the Love of Grandpa Toddie (1964) .... as Grandfather Toddie
  • Bewitched: "It's Magic" (Season 1/Episode 16) (1964) ... . as hapless magician, Zeno the Great
  • The Munsters: "Movie Star Munster" (1965) ... . as Alfred Swanson
  • Hogan's Heroes: "The Safecracker Suite" (Season 1/Episode 27) (1966) ... . as English safecracking master, Alfred Burke a.k.a. Alfie the Artiste
  • The Fugitive: "Joshua's Kingdom" (1966) ... as Doc
  • Batman (TV series): "Fine feathered finks" "The penguin's a jinx" Episodes 3 and 4 (1966) as Sparrow
  • Lost in Space: "The Toymaker" (Season 2/Episode 18) (1967).... as the Toymaker, Mr. O.M. (Old Man)
  • The F.B.I.: "The Two Million Dollar Hit" (1974) .... as Arnie Hellings
  • I Dream of Jeannie: "The Boss"
  • The Big Valley (TV series): 4 episodes, "The Iron Box" (1966) Young Billy, "The Disappearance"(1967) George Gates, "Fall of a Hero" (1968) T.J.Dyce, "Point and Counterpoint" (1969) Ned Stokely
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: "Terrible Leprechaun"(Season4) (1968) ..... as Leprechaun Mickey and Patrik
  • Ironside: "All in a Day's work" (Season1 / Episode 21) (1968) ..... as the informer.
  • Rawhide: "The Incident of the Deserter" (1960)
  • Mission: Impossible: "Image" (Season 6 / Episode 17) (1972) ..... as Nate Ullstead
  • Gunsmoke: "Hinka Do" (Season 5/ Episode 21) (1959)... as Herman
  • Ghost Story "The Concrete Captain" (episode 2) (1972) ... as Daniel


  1. Start, Clarissa (August 26, 1948). "He's an Actor Who's Long on Endurance". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Missouri, St. Louis. p. 3B. Retrieved January 17, 2018 via
  2. "A New Version of 'Faust'" in the New York Times, January 11, 1928, p. 26.
  3. "'Yolanda' Sung by Americans" in the New York Times, January 9, 1930, p. 28.
  4. "Walter Burke, a character actor who appeared in a..." UPI Archives. United Press International. August 16, 1984. Archived from the original on 18 January 2018. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  5. "Walter Burke". IMDb.
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