Yale University

In Memoriam

Michael Ross Walker

March 17, 1941 - December 23, 2007

After Lawrenceville, Michael Walker matriculated with Yale '63, enrolled for a period, living in Trumbull, studied anthropology, but left before graduating to begin a career in acting. His first role was as Bill Russell on the television show "Mr. Novak" on March 31, 1964 in the episode "Moment Without Armor." The remainder of his filmography includes roles in "The Defenders," "Perry Mason," "The Name of the Game," and others, concluding in 1970. Little else is known about him, although it is believed he was living on a kibbutz in Israel for a period after he stopped acting.

Walker's father was the actor Robert Walker, and his mother the actress Phyllis Lee Islay, whose stage name was Jennifer Jones. They were living in Queens, NY when Michael was born there in 1941. She separated from and commenced divorce proceedings from Walker in 1943, on grounds of mental cruelty. They completed "Since You Went Away" in 1944, earning her the cover of Life magazine.  In 1947, Jones was named "the year's most uncooperative actress" by the Women's Press Association. After a five-year affair, Jones married David O. Selznick off the coast of Portofino in 1949, making him Michael's step-father. In 1951, his father died from an adverse reaction to receiving a sedative, sodium amytal.

Jennifer Jones received five Academy Award nominations, and won the Academy Award for best actress in 1943 for the film The Song of Bernadette. Selznick died in 1965.  In 1967, Jones nearly died from an overdose of sleeping pills. In 1971 she married the multi-millionaire art collector, Norton Simon. Four years later, her daughter, Michael's half-sister, committed suicide by jumping off a 22-story building in Los Angeles.  After Simon died in 1993, she moved in with Walker's brother, Robert Walker, Jr., also an actor, who had received a Golden Globe award in 1965.

Michael was living in Pacific Palisades at the time of his death in Los Angeles at age 66. The cause of death was cardiac arrest as a complication of surgery.

His Lawrenceville '59 roommate, Dan Bull, wrote: "I spent a lot of time with Mike and his brother Bob not only at Lawrenceville but at home in Los Angeles during vacations. Mike was a gentle soul who never seemed comfortable in the environment in which he was raised.  I always had the feeling that he would have preferred to be somewhere else. Soon after we graduated, he disappeared. I ran into his mother a couple of times on flights between New York and Los Angeles, and in Pasadena after she married Norton Simon. I found these encounters a little disturbing because she did not seem to have much information about Mike to share, just, simply, that he was 'fine.' It seemed apparent to me that he was out of the country for most of his adult life. After several failed attempts to track him down, I gave up."

Michael Ross Walker's filmography follows.

  • Ironside (1970 TV series)
    • "Ransom" … Chris

  • It Takes a Thief (1970 TV series)
    • "Situation Red" … Dawson

  • The Name of the Game (1970 TV series)
    • "Island of Gold and Precious Stones" … Mark

  • Hell's Belles (1969 Movie)
    • Tony

  • Daring Game (1968 Movie)
    • Bink Binkenshpilder

  • Coronet Blue (1967 TV series)
    • "Faces" … Robert Cooper

  • Slattery's People (1965 TV series)
    • "Of Damon, Pythias and Sleeping Dogs" … Jeff Rankin

  • Perry Mason (1965 TV series)
    • "The Case of the Cheating Chancellor" … Joe Price

  • The Defenders (1965 TV series)
    • "A Matter of Law and Disorder" … Tommy Santley

  • The Rogues (1965 TV series)
    • "Gambit by the Golden Gate" … Downey

  • The Doctors and the Nurses (1964 TV series)
    • "Rites of Spring" … Cris Molloy

  • Mr. Novak (1964 TV series)
    • "Moment Without Armor" … Bill Russell