S. K. Walker, aka Starr King Walker

Starr King Walker was born in New York City in 1874, son of Hamilton B. Walker and Phoebe Starr. His father, a physician, died in 1876. One biography suggests he was likely named after the famous San Francisco scholar and minister, Thomas Starr King, who was a relative on his mother’s side of the family. Starr King Walker attended Columbia University, where he studied medicine, but decided he was not suited to that profession and chose the stage instead. After leaving the study of medicine, he studied abroad, continuing his voice studies begun back home, and also learned to play the violin, piano, and cello.

In 1893 he married Emily M. Sheldon, and the couple had a daughter, Evelyn, born in 1895. A profile in the “The Stars of Tomorrow” section of Theatre Magazine in January of 1909 refers to “his seven years upon the stage,” suggesting he began his professional acting career about 1902.

It appears his family was well-off financially, so his career choices in acting were never driven by monetary considerations. Indeed, in the 1900 census he is not listed as an actor, but in the “Occupation” category we find “Private,” suggesting an independent income. Another glimpse into his life in the period between his marriage and the start of his theatrical career is found in this amusing anecdote from The World about his bull terrier in the 1894 Westminster Kennel Show:

DOGDOM’S ARISTOCRATS
The Westminster Kennel Club Show the Largest and Best Ever Held
Canine Beauties of Many Sorts
Madison Square Garden Filled with Thoroughbred Dogs of Every Breed.

Two Bull Terriers Settle an Old Grudge in the Orthodox Way and Scare Pretty Visitors
PRETTY GIRLS AND UGLY DOGS

In watching people yesterday at the Garden, it was interesting to note that the prettiest girls always lingered longer over the bulldogs. There seemed to be some subtle fascination in the ugly faces of these brutes for the fair sex. The St. Bernards, mastiffs and grayhounds they passed with just a casual glance. These are really the dudes of the canine world. Their quarters are up near the entrance, and during most of the time yesterday it was difficult to get near them.

A brindle and a white bull terrier had an old-fashioned fight early in the afternoon at the dog show. The brindle was Starr King Walker’s Prince Rover, the other was the Wentworth Kennel’s Marion.

The dogs were benched in adjoining stalls, and were taken out at the same time by their keepers for exercise. As soon as they touched the floor they sprang together. Prince Rover caught a face-hold, Marion a foreleg grip. The dogs held together in the gamiest way. The keepers pulled on the collars desperately, but this had no effect.

There was a great scattering of the on-lookers. Mrs. Burke-Roche, Mr. and Mrs. Perry Tiffany and Mrs. C. Albert Stevens ran for the balcony stairs. Miss Mamie Field, F. T. Underhill, Mrs. John R. Hone and Elliott Smith dodged behind convenient show-pens. In a trice the dogs had the aisle to themselves. Will Faversham, of the “Sowing the Wind” company, who has the bull terrier Admiral Mello at the show, and knows how to handle them, and W. J. Higginson, the amateur fancier, of Rochester, jumped to the rescue.

By their united efforts the dogs were clubbed and choked apart. Marion had the worst of the bout. They were taken to the cellars, where their wounds were dressed, and they were left to calm down.

It is unclear at what point Starr King and Emily Walker separated. They were listed as a family in the 1900 census, but in the 1910 census Emily and daughter Evelyn are living in a boarding house, with Emily’s occupation given as a probation officer in the New York Department of Corrections. Her work as a probation officer seems to have been a career choice rather than a mere job, from the gist of newspaper articles, and her choice may have sprung from her father’s background as Emigration Commissioner at Castle Garden (precursor to Ellis Island.)

The separation may have been due to Walker’s decision to go on the stage sometime after 1900. Perhaps it was the fact that this required long absences due to out of town engagements, or the fact that acting was not considered a proper vocation in the social world they both came from. Though it appears they never divorced, the separation may not have been amicable. In newspaper articles about daughter Evelyn’s debut in society, her engagement several years later and subsequent marriage, all fail to mention her father. She is invariably listed as the daughter of Mrs. Starr King Walker. Indeed, in the 1920 census Emily Walker is listed as “Starr King Walker,” yet it is clearly her, not her husband, listed with daughter Evelyn.

From various publications, we can trace Starr King Walker’s early career:

The New York Dramatic Mirror, 18 April 1903

On its first presentation in Toronto at the Princess Theatre 6-11, David Harum was accorded a reception worthy of the play. The part of David Harum was well taken by an actor new to this city, W. H. Turner, whose portrayal was better than could ordinarily have been expected. Curtain calls were frequent and all the player had to respond to the flattering tributes paid them. Among those worthy of notice were Dorothy Turner as Mary Blake, and Starr King Walker in the part of John Lennox. Gordon-Shay Opera co. 13-18.

Another reference from The New York Dramatic Mirror in September of 1903 to the production of David Harum with Starr King Walker in the role of John Lennox. This is listed as the Number 1 company, suggesting a stock tour.

Another reference a month later in The New York Clipper tells of three members of the David Harum company, Walker being one of them, having been proposed for membership in the Jersey City Lodge of the B. P. O. E. (The B. P. O. E. is the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, founded in 1868 from an earlier club, The Jolly Corks. The Jolly Corks was a drinking club, founded in 1866 by a group of New York actors to circumvent the New York law that closed saloons on Sunday. In later years, many actors joined the Elks as a way of having a place to socialize while playing in towns across the country.)

From The New York Dramatic Mirror, 2 April 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is a very good likeness of Starr King Walker, who has been engaged by Mr. Keith to play light comedy roles with his Philadelphia Stock company. Mr. Walker has a baritone voice of remarkable range, he having studied both here and abroad for nine years under the best masters. Many flattering offers for vaudeville and light opera Mr. Walker has refused because of his preference for dramatic work. Friends predict for this young actor a brilliant future.

The New York Clipper, 3 September 1904

CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles
Belasco Theatre (John H. Blackwood, manager).—This new and cozy theatre, controlled by Belasco, Mayer & Co., of San Francisco, will offer “The Wife” as its opening bill Aug. 29, presented by the Belasco Stock Co., which includes Martin L. Alsop, Adele Block, Oza Waldrop, Louise Mackintosh, Mary Graham, Fay Wallace, Agnes Rankin, Starr King Walker, Richard Vivian, Howard Scott, Robert Rogers and James A. Bliss. George W. Barnum, assisted by Louis Bishop Hall will have charge of the stage.

The Daily Courier-Light (Corsicana, Texas) February 1, 1905

A Problem Play is Faultlessly Presented
“Iris” by Arthur Pinero
Laurence Trenwith—Starr King Walker

Mr. Walker, as Trenwith, is a passionate lover and by a kiss thwarts his rival, but his truly splendid work is done in the last act. Listening to a story that tears his heart, he departs in silence, depicting the soul whose inward fires torture it.

New York Telegraph, 6 August 1905

GOES TO VAUDEVILLE
Dorothy Turner, in conjunction with Starr King Walker, has taken the vaudeville plunge in Chicago. She was given a trial performance at the Haymarket Theatre last week in a clever little playlet, “Bluffing a Bluff,” by Anna Steese Richardson, who wrote several successful sketches for Lillian Burkhart and others. Miss Turner, who is best remembered in the East through her connection with the David Harum company, has been a member of the Belasco Stock Company in San Francisco the past season. The sketch was favorably received, and will be booked for the Western Circuit at the opening of the regular season.

Theatre Magazine, Volumes 9-10 January 1909

The Stars of Tomorrow
Starr King Walker gives an object lesson by his work as the private secretary of the Fool in “A Fool There Was” how strong an impression may be made by intelligent acting of a small part. “Repose, thy name is Walker,” was one of the plaudits flung at him for his bit in the play.

The New York Dramatic Mirror, 11 January 1911

Among the coming stars in this generation is Starr King Walker. He has achieved success in De Mille and Claggett’s The Third Rail, materializing stellar promise given in interpretations in A Fool There Was and other productions. In Hartford, critics said:

Hartford Daily Courant, Thursday, Dec. 1, 1910—“First honors fell to Starr K. Walker as the ‘Third Rail.’ Not so very long ago the best known theatrical monthly of America published a short article on Mr. Walker among others, under the title of ‘Stars of Tomorrow,’ and from his acting in the present play it would seem that the prophecy would be fulfilled. He is one of those easy, reserved, good looking young fellows who speak quietly, making every effect count.”

Hartford Daily Times—“Folks who strolled into Parson’s Theatre Wednesday evening made a discovery. They found out that the methods of producing laughs in audiences followed by young Jack Barrymore and Thomas W. Ross and the suave William Collier, are not the only methods to be followed in conveying fun from a manuscript to the seats occupied by playgoers. In ‘The Third Rail’ (a new play produced by De Mille and Claggett) there is a Starr King Walker, a young man with an engaging smile, a more engaging manner, and a still more engaging intelligence in comedy acting. It is to be believed that Mr. Walker made friends with Hartford Wednesday evening, because he is blessed with all these traits. Mr. Walker is not mentioned as the star of the play, but he shines.”

Hartford Evening Post—“S. K. Walker played the part of the hero with such excellent judgment, skill and discretion that I am inclined to predict great things of him in the future. He has an uncommonly attractive personality, a distinct and authoritative grasp of comedy, that unusual quality in the modern actor, a knowledge of the value of time and the unique faculty of making the audience realize what he is thinking about without the use of excessive pantomime. I can recall no one of our younger actors who possesses these qualities in so well balanced a degree, and I look for the success of one as expectantly as I do for the success of the other.

The Billboard, 6 January 1912

Chicago premiere on 25 December 1911 of “The Woman” by William C. De Mille, directed by David Belasco.

Starr King Walker as Tom, son of Hon. Jim Blake

The New York Dramatic Mirror, 24 January 1912

CHICAGO STAGE
The Woman, at the Olympic, is still drawing audiences of good size. A more thoroughly excellent co. has not been here this season. Gladys Hanson’s wife is most attractive and a fine example of emotional acting that moves and convinces. Peter Raymond makes Tim Neligan a genuine politician of the class that follow the crowd which has the money. Starr King Walker gives to Tom, the boss’s son, the right American spirit and independence with the skill of a good actor. All the others deserve the many good things said about them in the reviews.

The Green Book Magazine, Vol. 8 1912

However, these are but a few of the young actors who seem to take their profession seriously and who appear anxious to grow and develop in their chosen calling. There are many, many more besides these, a few random names which occur to me being Clinton Preston; Harrison Ford, Ralph Ramsey, Starr King Walker, ….

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 30 March 1913

“The Governor’s Lady” at the Broadway Theater This Week
At the Broadway Theater on Monday night “The Governor’s Lady” will pay a return visit to Brooklyn. It was chosen by Mr. Belasco for production on account of its force and because of the possibilities which it presented for his stage management. Alice Bradley, who wrote it, is a new author who was taken by the New York public on her merits alone. The play comes here exactly as it was presented during its long run at the Republic Theater in New York.

As for the players, they are up to the high standard that Mr. Belasco sets for his productions. There is the sweet womanliness and homely dignity of Emma Dunne, the virile force of Emmett Corrigan, the handsome presence and vivid power of Gladys Hanson, the reserve and manly air of Milton Sills, the matured character studies of Teresa Maxwell-Conover and Starr King Walker.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 16 April 1913

BELASCO PLAY TONIGHT
This evening at the Lyceum, “The Governor’s Lady” will begin an engagement of five performances. This is Alice Bradley’s play produced by William Elliott and David Belasco with a cast that is reputed exceptional. It includes Emmett Corrigan, Emma Dunne, Gladys Hanson, Milton Sills, Starr King Walker, W. H. Tooker and Teresa Maxwell-Conover together with thirty others. The play tells a story that is direct and simple, but appealing in its tenderness, it is said.

(The Governor’s Lady was notable for realistically recreating, in typical David Belasco fashion, an entire Child’s restaurant, complete with working grill!)

The Internet Broadway Database lists two later credits for Starr King Walker:

The Thirteenth Chair – Nov 20, 1916 – Closing date unknown, with S. K. Walker in the role of Edward Wales.

Daddies – Sep 5, 1918 – Jun 1919, with S. K. Walker in the role of William Rivers

No later references to Starr King Walker’s acting career have been found. This may be due to the state of his health, which could have begun to deteriorate about this time. His WWI draft registration card lists his address as the home of his mother at 109 W. 86th Street, and his New York Times death notice states he passed away at the home of his mother on March 31st, 1921. He is buried with other family members in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Fast Facts:
Born: 10 August 1874, New York City, New York
Married: 4 September 1893, New York City, New York-Emily M. Sheldon (b. January 1869)
Children: Evelyn Sheldon Walker (b. January 1895)
Died: 31 March 1921, New York City, New York
Buried: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York
Member of The Lambs