Well, it looks like it’s a bad year to be a respected performer and over the age of 80. Ralph Waite will probably be remembered for his role as the patriarch of “The Waltons” ( a series to which I admit never having seen an episode) but he should be honored for more than just that. Waite was a theatrically trained actor who started on Broadway, moved to film and television, and occasionally returned to his theatrical roots. He was the founder of the Los Angeles Actor’s Theater and as a performer he portrayed “Pozzo” in a revival of “Waiting for Godot”.
He continued to work as an actor as recently as a few months ago with appearances on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives”, Fox Television’s “Bones” and CBS’s “NCIS”.
I personally remember him most from a television movie he did in 1977 called “Red Alert” in which he played a mean, nasty, by-the-book nuclear power plant manager. This little-remembered film, co-starring William Devane, was a terrific suspense thriller that preceded both “The China Syndrome” and the actual Three Mile Island incident. I remember thinking at the time that it couldn’t be the same actor who played the calm, rustic, Depression-era leader of the Walton family.
Good actor. Goodnight, Ralph…