Ray Walston's three-year turn as a sitcom Martian gave him a public profile but only scratched the surface of the talent he showed in a seven-decade acting career on stage and screen and in television.
The winner of two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, Walston made his last appearance in an episode of the CBS drama "Touched by an Angel," which aired in 2000.
In a 1995 interview with The Times not long after he won his first Emmy Award at the age of 80 for his role as the stern but wise Judge Henry Bone on the CBS drama "Picket Fences," Walston expressed his long-held bemusement that "My Favorite Martian" remained the indelible role of his career.
"The 'Martian' show, which was a ridiculous, silly show, was never recognized . . . [although] I don't blame the academy," he said of the series' lack of critical acclaim. It was a recurring theme for Walston, who back in 1964, when the sitcom was on the air, told a reporter: "I had to think twice before I agreed to play a character with wires sticking out of his head who does tricks. I knew I was laying my career on the line."
"My Favorite Martian" costarred Bill Bixby as a newspaper reporter whose life turns upside down when Walston's Martian crash-lands on Earth and moves in with him, becoming Bixby's "Uncle Martin." It ran from 1963 to 1966 and still can be seen on cable TV. It remained a chip that Walston could repeatedly play — appearing in the forgettable 1999 film version of the series and earlier in a TV ad campaign for AT&T.
Still, if "My Favorite Martian" branded him, Walston built a distinguished parallel career. Born in New Orleans in 1914, Walston got his acting start in 1939 when he joined the Margo Jones Community Players, a theater company in Houston. He moved to New York in the 1940s to further his career, a starving actor supplementing his passion with a night job as a Linotype operator at the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune. He landed a role in a Maurice Evans production of "Hamlet" in 1945 and in the late 1940s and '50s he worked steadily, garnering critical acclaim in musicals and dramatic works including "The Front Page" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Me and Juliet."