Henry B. Walthall

Henry B. Walthall
Otto Dyar / Fox Film


Henry B. Walthall
Film: North side of the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Henry Brazeale Walthall on March 16, 1878 in Shelby City, AL
Died June 17, 1936 of influenza in Monrovia, CA

Henry B. Walthall was an early Hollywood star known as the "Little Colonel" and remembered primarily for his role as Col. Ben Cameron in D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation."

Walthall was born March 16, 1878, on a plantation in Shelby, Ala., the son of a onetime Confederate captain who was later appointed Shelby County's sheriff. He was home-schooled by a private tutor.

As a young man, Walthall served in the Spanish-American War as a private. The experience afforded him his first taste of the theater when he and a group of fellow soldiers began providing entertainment to other troops.

At the war's end, he headed to New York City, where he acted in a play called "Secret Service" before joining a stock company in Providence, R.I. He soon began touring with a repertory group and appearing on Broadway.

He left New York behind and moved to Hollywood in the very early years of narrative film, and quickly became a favorite foil of Griffith's. During production of "The Birth of a Nation," Walthall reportedly earned a then-princely salary of $150 a week.

Walthall remained closely associated with his role in "The Birth of a Nation" despite appearing in many other films.

The rise of the talkies caused his career to falter, although at the time of his death he was attempting to stage a comeback. He collapsed while filming "China Clipper" in 1936 and died a few weeks later at age 58. His cause of death was reported as "exhaustion and intestinal influenza."

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