Oral History: Christopher Walken, Child Star

by Jack Tewksbury March 19, 2020
Actor Christopher Walken, Golden Globe nominee

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For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actors, actresses and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items- is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library. Back in 1992, a very busy time for him, two years away from becoming a megastar with Pulp Fiction, Christopher Walken recalled his roots in live television - when he was 10 years old.

Actor Christopher Walken, Golden Globe nominee, in 1955

Child actor Ronnie Walken, aka Christopher Walken, in a TV program entitled Wonderful John Acton, 1955.

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"I started when I was a kid.  I have two brothers and we were born in Queens which is right across the bridge from Manhattan and in the 1950s Rockefeller Center,  in particular.  That whole area was really the beginning of television.  It was live. There were 90 live television shows from New York every week when things were beginning. You know. Uncle Miltie and Sid  Caesar and the Colgate  Comedy  Hour  and 

Philco Armstrong and  Circle Theatre. All these shows hired a lot of children. Children were like furniture. They would just be there. There was a very large group of children who did that.There were three schools that catered to them, a professional children’s school and two others and it was a very particular time. I don’t think that exists anything like it anymore,  not even in  California.  Live television was a  separate medium all its own. We would just be brought in and we’d do these things. Sometimes we’d have a  line which we would forget. 

My mother was very interested in entertainment. The Stage Mothers Society had 300 members so you can imagine how many kids there were and we all took tap dancing lessons and we were in show business.  I was in there when I was ten, easily.”