Charles Walters was a Hollywood choreographer and film director. He was known for the comedies and musicals that he worked on since 1940s through the 1960s for ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’ Studios Inc (‘MGM’), the famous American media company. He remained a dancer himself who choreographed several ‘Broadway’ musicals like ‘Let’s Face It!’ and ‘Sing Out the News’ prior to his innings with the ‘MGM’. Some of the notable musical films that saw performers dancing to his choreography included ‘Summer Holiday’, ‘Best Foot Forward’, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, ‘Girl Crazy’, ‘Du Barry Was a Lady’. He directed many musicals for ‘MGM’ that achieved both popularity as well as box office success. Some such noted ones are ‘High Society’, ‘Easter Parade’, ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’, ‘Billy Rose’s Jumbo’ and ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown’. Several big stars of ‘MGM’ such as Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Peter Lawford worked in his musicals like. After showcasing his talent in musicals he moved on to prove his mettle in the genre of comedy and triumphed with films like ‘Don’t Go near the Water’, ‘Ask Any Girl’ and ‘Please Don’t Eat the Daisies’ to name a few. His 1953 directed film ‘Lily’ fetched him an ‘Academy Awards’ nomination for Best Director’. ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ has a star on him at 6402 Hollywood Boulevard.
- He was born on November 17, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York, in the United States.He attended the ‘University of Southern California’ in Los Angeles.Career
- He worked for around 8 years in Broadway, mostly as a dancer prior to his stint in Hollywood. He got to choreograph his first show in 1938. The Broadway musicals that he choreographed included ‘Sing Out the News’ during 1938–39 and ‘Let’s Face It!’ during1941–43.He was introduced to ‘MGM’ by American film director-producer and screenwriter Robert Altman following which he started to stage routines for screen productions.Starting with a number of the 1943 musical ‘Du Barry Was A Lady’ where Walters had the opportunity to work with American dancer, actor, singer, film director-producer as also choreographer Gene Kelly, he went on to work with several yesteryear divas including Judy Garland, Lucille Ball and June Allyson among others, staging musical numbers.Eventually he became a close friend of Garland and worked with her in several of her films.He gradually became one of the leading dance directors of ‘MGM’ and worked on some of its best musical films. These included the 1943 film ‘Best Foot Forward, an adaptation of the 1941 Broadway musical comedy of the same title; the 1943 version of ‘Girl Crazy’ where he partnered on-screen with Judy Garland; the 1944 film ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’; 1944 Technicolor musical film, ‘Broadway Rhythm’ where he choreographed ‘Brazilian Boogie’, and the 1948 film ‘Summer Holiday’, which was based on Eugene O'Neill’s 1933 play ‘Ah, Wilderness!’.Walters partly choreographed films such as the 1945 musical comedy ‘Ziegfeld Follies’; and the 1946 musical film ‘The Harvey Girls’, which was based on 1942 novel of Samuel Hopkins Adams.In 1945 he directed a 10 minutes short film titled ‘Spreadin’ the Jam’. It was written by Sid Kuller and starred Helen Boyce, Ben Lessy and Jan Clayton.In 1947 he came up with his first feature film as a director with the ‘MGM’ Technicolor musical, ‘Good News’, a second adaptation of a 1927 stage production bearing the same title (the first adaptation being the 1930 film of same title). The film that starred Joan McCracken, Mel Tormé, June Allyson and Peter Lawford although became a box office disappointment with a recorded loss of $7,000, fetched Blane, Martin and Edens a nomination for the ‘Academy Award for Best Song’ for their number ‘Pass That Peace Pipe’.However his work as a director including fully utilizing pans, crane shots and tracking shots was quite appreciated by ‘MGM’ that saw him doing his next musical film ‘Easter Parade’ in 1948 produced by noted producer Arthur Freed and starred Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Peter Lawford. It emerged as a commercial success and became the highest grossing film of that year.His next directorial venture, again a Technicolor musical film, ‘The Barkleys of Broadway’, released on May 4, 1949, marked the pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers after a gap of ten years and remained the last film paired by this popular on-screen duo. The film was a success at the box office and also earned positive response from the critics.Other notable musical films of Walters included ‘Summer Stock’ (1950) and ‘High Society (1956).In 1951 he explored his talent in non-musicals with the black-and-white “MGM’ film ‘Three Guys Named Mike’ which was described by ‘Turner Classic Movies’ as a ‘lighthearted and lightweight story’. The film fetched a profit of $577,000.His next notable film was ‘Lili’ which released on March 10, 1953. His remarkable direction in the film that starred Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Zsa Zsa Gabor fetched him his sole Academy Award nomination for Best Director. The film bagged Best Music award at the ‘Academy Awards’ and also fetched nominations in the categories of Best Actress, Best Writing, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. It garnered a profit of $1,878,000 and emerged as the most popular musical film of ‘MGM’ that year.His Metrocolor comedy film ‘Please Don’t Eat the Daisies’ that was released on March 31, 1960, became one of the highest grossing films of that year earning a profit of $1,842,000. This domestic comedy that was adapted from Jean Kerr’s book of the same title and starred Doris Day and David Niven.In 1964 musical film of Walters, ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown’ starred Debbie Reynolds. Her performance in the film earned her ‘Academy Awards’ nomination in the category of Best Actress, the only such ‘Oscars’ nomination of her career.His last film ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ was a Technicolor romantic comedy that he made in 1966 for ‘Columbia Pictures’, the only film that he directed for a non-‘MGM’ production in a span of 25 years. The film that starred Cary Grant in the lead also marked the last appearance of Grant in a feature film. A remake of the 1943 comedy film by George Stevens titled ‘The More the Merrier’, this motion picture eventually ranked as the 23rd highest grossing film of that year.After retiring from big-screen he got involved with many TV projects that included directing Lucille Ball in a couple of made-for-television movies. He also directed Lucille Ball in the TV sitcom series ‘Here's Lucy’.In 1976 he took retirement from direction.Personal Life & Legacy
- On August 13, 1982, at the age of seventy-two years he passed away in Malibu, California, after suffering from lung cancer.Trivia
- Brent Phillips’ book titled ‘Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance’, portrays him a gay.
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