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Although Morgan Woodward is best remembered by Waltons fans as "Boone Walton," to most movie fans he is known as the sinister "Man With No Eyes," from the film classic "Cool Hand Luke." During his recent visit to the Museum, on its Reunion Weekend, we spoke about his remarkable career.
Thomas Morgan Woodward was born in Fort Worth, Texas, September 16, 1925. He attended the public schools of Arlington, Texas, and graduated from High School in 1944.
His first acting role was at age six playing Miles Standish in a church production and he still has his costume to this day. He then went on to do some child modeling for a Fort Worth, Texas department store.
After graduating from high school, Morgan enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps Pilot Training Program. He had been flying since the age of sixteen and continues to be an active pilot today.
Following World War II, he entered Arlington State College in Texas, where he majored in music and drama. During this period, Woodward began his professional career with the renowned Margo Jones Repertory Theatre in Dallas. His ultimate goal however, was the Metropolitan Opera. Later, the slow emergence of grand opera in America along with a chronic sinus condition convinced him that opera was not the career to pursue.
In 1948, Woodward transferred to the University of Texas and changed his major to Business Administration specializing in Corporate Finance, with a minor in music and drama. In addition to a full course of study, he had his own weekly radio show and dance band, as well as a barber shop quartet.
After graduating, in 1951, with a degree in corporate finance, Woodward entered the University of Texas Law School. His Studies were interrupted when he was recalled to active duty with the Air Force and sent to Korea with the Military Air Transport Command.
Following the Korean War, Woodward came to the attention of Walt Disney, through Fess Parker, his former roommate and fraternity brother. Disney agreed to feature Morgan in his feature film, "The Great Locomotive Chase." It would be Disney's first full-length live action motion picture, and Woodward's first film. Walt Disney was impressed and signed him for two more pictures.
Another friend from Texas, Aaron Spelling, was doing "The Zane Grey Theater" and gave Morgan his first role on television. Woodward then signed a four year contract to star as the character "Shotgun Gibbs" with Hugh O'Brian in the television series "Wyatt Earp." He went on to do almost 90 episodes.
Morgan played a heavy in a 1968 psychological western, "Firecreek" which paired old pals Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda together for the first time. In 1970 he made "Yuma," a made-for-TV western with Clint Walker and Barry Sullivan. He then switched gears for "Which Way Is Up" , an irreverent comedy starring Richard Pryor.
It was during this time that he played the character of "Boone Walton" on "The Waltons." I asked Morgan about that role and working on "The Waltons." He recalled that he had appeared in two episodes, "The Conflict" (a two hour episode) and "The Moonshiner." Both of the shows were written by Jeb Rosebrook. "I found The Waltons to be a marvelous experience for me. The scripts were very well written by Jeb and I liked the character of Boone. The series stressed strong family values and I enjoyed working with my neighbor, Beulah Bondi."
|Morgan Woodward has done over 250 TV and Motion picture films. He holds
the record for having done more guest starring roles on the series "Gunsmoke"
(19) and "Wagon Train" (11) than any other actor. He starred on the MGM TV
series "Logan's Run" (1977-1978) and also on the top-rated daytime series,
"Days of Our Lives" (1987-1988). He was a regular guest star on the series
"Dallas", the top-rated television series in the world for several years, where
he portrayed the character "Punk Anderson".
He was mentioned by many of the nation's top film critics as an outstanding contender for the 1967 Motion Picture Academy Award in a supporting role, for his portrayal of "the man with no eyes" in "Cool Hand Luke" starring Paul Newman.
Early in 1969, the three major networks submitted what they
considered to be their finest Western film for the Western Heritage
Foundation's Cowboy Hall of Fame Award. Woodward guest-starred in two of the three films submitted. One of these, "The Buffalo Soldiers" (an episode of NBC's High Chaparral") won the coveted award.
In 1988, Woodward was presented with the "Golden Lariat Award" at the National Western Film Festival. In August of the same year he received the prestigious "Golden Boot Award" from the Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Fund. Other 1988 recipients were Roy Rogers, Virginia Mayo, Willie Nelson, Anne Rutherford and Burt Reynolds.
In March 1990, Woodward's star was placed on the "Walk of Western Stars" at the William S. Hart Museum and Park in Santa Clarita, California. In 1994, the Texas Arts Council presented Morgan with its Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award in his hometown of Arlington, Texas. The city also named a prominent street "Morgan Woodward Way". In August of 1995, Woodward received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" for western film acting from the "Wild West Film Festival" in Sonora, California. In 1997 Morgan celebrated 50 years in show business and was given the "International Star Award" in Los Angeles. A featured article in Newsweek Magazine on screen "heavies" entitled "The Dirty Half Dozen" named Woodward as one of the six most wanted bad guys in television and motion pictures. He continues to stay busy and has recently completed guest starring roles on two top-rated TV shows, "The X-Files" and "Millennium".
Woodward's chief hobby is restoring, rebuilding and flying antique airplanes. In aviation circles, he is recognized as an authority on early American aircraft and has received numerous awards for his restoration projects.
Woodward is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Screen Actors' Guild, and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and a life member of the Actors' Fund. He is also a member of The Sons of the American Revolution, The Ancient and Secret Order of Quiet Birdmen, The OX-5 Club of America and The Antique Aircraft Association of America.
Morgan Woodward is also a member of the Greek fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. In 1981, at their annual convention in Washington, D.C. he was awarded the fraternitys highest honor, the Distinguished Achievement Award, which was presented to him by his fraternity brother, Senator Strom Thurmond. Woodward has also been honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas and is listed in Who's Who In America and Who's Who in the World.
Today Morgan is semi-retired, dividing his time between his home in Los Angeles and his ranch in Paso Robles, California. He attended the Waltons International Fan Club Reunion in California last year and the Museums Reunion this Fall. "I am flattered by the Waltons fans," said Morgan, "They are very warm and caring people."
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