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 Mar. 15, 2005

Margie Yu
Public Affairs Specialist 
(323) 343-3047



Cal State L.A. 
Office of Public Affairs 
(323) 343-3050 
Fax: (323) 343-6405

For immediate release:
Obituary for Cal State L.A.’s
Former Theatre Arts Professor

Walter Scott Beaver, professor of theatre arts at California State University, Los Angeles, from 1956 to 1984, died of Parkinson's Disease on January 7 at the Montecito, CA, home where he had lived with his wife Elizabeth since their retirement. He was 80 years old.

Shiz Herrera, then a student but now a faculty member, says Walter Beaver's philosophy of teaching by example was never more evident than when he played the bartender in a summer musical called The Big Rich. He was always on time, knew his lines, remembered his blocking, and was always in good humor even during the long technical rehearsals. He never asked nor expected star status. He was just another member of the company thespians.

He directed more than 50 plays, most of them at Cal State L.A. A memorable directorial success was Hamlet in 1959 starring Robert Vaughn (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). Walt had selected his “Hamlet” a year in advance to be sure that the student would be available, when Vaughn walked in from Los Angeles City College, asked to audition and won the part. Walt also directed a musical Hamlet, which he wrote as Black Shadow Black Prince. He wrote and staged several other musicals, most notably the uproarious Help Stamp Out Puritans. His emeritus colleague Pete Goodman speculates that it would have succeeded in England if given the opportunity. Walt wrote book, lyrics and music for this and his other musicals, Tout les Deceptions de Paris and A Little on the Side! Other plays that he directed here include The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Macbeth, King Lear, Oedipus, East Lynn, Damn Yankees, Ah Wilderness, The Bells are Ringing, The Skin of Our Teeth, Dylan and Plaza Suite.

He yearned to be a pilot in World War II but was forced by inadequate vision to become a glider pilot instead. Then getting lost high over Texas grounded him back to the regular army. Even there he played unique roles. In New Mexico he was secretary-assistant to the Trial Judge Advocate and in Italy he operated a plant to generate oxygen for the use of pilots, training 300 others in the art. Any conceivable doubts about his future were resolved when he was given opportunities on stage to entertain troops as a singer.

When he was mustered out of the army he had the “good fortune” of falling flat on the ice at Columbus, Ohio. He looked up, saw a travel agency and promptly bought a one-way fare to Santa Barbara because an army buddy had described its beauty. He graduated in 1949 in Theatre Arts and English Literature at Santa Barbara State College (before it was a UC). He played many lead roles there as an undergraduate and later at UCLA where he received an MA in 1951 and USC where he received a PhD in 1966.While still an undergraduate he participated with Eleanor Roosevelt in a panel on the United Nations at Washington, D.C.

Walter remained professionally active off campus as well. Even as an undergraduate he appeared frequently on radio. He played Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois at the Pasadena Playhouse and again in Norman Corwin’s The Rivalry at Theatre 40 and The Huntington Library. He was especially proud of Corwin’s description of him as “the greatest Lincoln since Lincoln.” (Our emeriti rank high in the Lincoln firmament because Walt’s colleague Paul Zall’s book Lincoln on Lincoln was described by eminent Civil War historian James McPherson as “the book Lincoln would have written had he survived.”) Walt also played Julius Caesar and King Lear at the Globe Theatre and had leading roles at Actors Co-op, Burbage Theatre and Celtic Arts Theatre.

Among Walt’s ten big screen movies were Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, in which he sang “The Loveliest Night of the Year” as brother Lem, and The Solid Gold Cadillac. He appeared in several movies which received Academy Awards for acting honors, though like Jack Benny and Bob Hope he joked every spring about not winning that year. He was often seen on television in “Murder She Wrote,” “General Hospital,” “Dallas,” “Divorce Court,” “Superior Court” and “Seinfeld,” as well as several made-for-TV movies. He played leads on two “Hallmark Hall of Fame” productions. Walt was featured in several radio productions by Norman Corwin. He also played a leading role in a staged version of Corwin’s famous radio show “On a Night of Triumph” that was produced by his wife Elizabeth O’Reilly Beaver at Theatre 40.

The obituary written by Elizabeth Beaver for the Santa Barbara News-Press lists first his membership in the Emeriti Association, followed by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Actors Equity and the Dramatists’ Guild. In addition to his widow he is survived by a daughter Diana Fourney of Morgan Hill, CA, who was also with him when he died.

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