Philip Baker Hall Inducted 1998 - Class of 1949
What do Philip Baker Hall and Harrison Ford have in common??? They both appeared in the 1997 blockbuster thriller movie, "Air Force One." This 1949 Woodward grad has made his dream of acting a reality and has succeeded in a very competitive business. Philip Baker Hall has the reputation of being one of the best character actors in Hollywood and has been a "leading man" as well. We revel in honoring him tonight.
You may remember Philip best as "Bookman," the library book tracer from Seinfeld ...or maybe as the bureaucratic type in Midnight Run...or as the stern Secretary of Defense in The Rock.. But it all began at Woodward.
Philip was born and raised in Toledo and attended Sherman elementary school. He grew up in the Walnut and Bancroft Street neighborhood. The "Ace of Clubs" nightclub was nearby. Philip's closest high school friends included Norman Musialowski, Forrest Black, and Joan Black. While at
Woodward, Philip was president of his senior class and a Tattler Achievement Cup honoree.
Philip found his vocation through Dorothy Warner's Drama Club and the "Extravaganza" productions, in which he starred. It was at Woodward where Philip met Andrew Fenady and his brother Georg, both WHS Hall of Fame inductees, whose production credits are familiar to us all. They met when Andrew was a senior and Philip was a freshman and became friends "despite the social gulfs between the two classes." Also in Philip’s freshman class was Jameel Farah, now known as Jamie Farr; who later gained fame as Corporal Klinger on M*A*S*H*. It was during his freshman year that Philip appeared in an Extrav and stole the show with an Al Jolson routine that earned several encores. Philip, like fellow inductee Peggy Crispen Cook, remembers the odd ritual of watching Hollywood movies during the lunch hour. Little did he know that he would someday appear on the silver screen.
Philip's favorite teachers were Ruth Nelson, "a great teacher of literature;" and Dorothy Matheney, who "both made me aware of the world outside of WHS and gave me the confidence to confront it. Mrs. Matheney helped me to acquire the tools necessary for real world survival. Through her, I discovered that I wanted to be an artist of some kind-a writer or perhaps an actor."
After leaving Woodward, Philip attended the University of Toledo. He dug ditches to put himself through school. He remembers UT theater professors who inspired him to pursue an acting career. "They encouraged me a great deal. They said that if I wanted to have a career as a professional actor, it was there for me, but only if I were serious and disciplined enough to make the commitment..."
During his college years, Philip performed at UT and joined the Toledo Repertoire Theater. At UT, he starred in Othello with Andy Fenady. After graduating from UT in 1953, Philip didn't stick around long. He decided that if he was ever to become a professional actor, he best try for Broadway. His family moved to Brooklyn in 1960, and Philip began "making the rounds." He eventually landed several roles on Broadway and launched an acting career, which spanned the 1960's, 70's, 80's, and still flourishes today.
Within two months of Philip's arrival in New York, he became part of a government sponsored tour that was to go to South America. It was headed by Helen Hayes and Leif Erickson. Later they both figured in his career in Theater Guild productions, when he acted opposite Miss Hayes in Skin of Our Teeth and The Glass Menagerie, and with Erickson in The Miracle Worker.
Philip's list of "career highlights" is lengthy: member of Second City/Campus Company (1962); off Broadway in The Fantastiks (1966); a starring role in Gorky at the American Place Theater in New York (1975);The Biko Inquest at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles (1979); The Tempest with Anthony Hopkins (1980); the role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman at the Los Angeles Theater Center (1989); and The Inspector General, for which he won the LA Herald Examiner Award for best actor.
In the late 1960's, Philip actually took a 5-year respite from acting and went to work for a marketing research firm. Within 13 months, he was promoted to Vice-President. But despite the easy success of his new career, he left the research firm and became a visiting acting instructor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Encouragement from family members set the stage for the resumption of Philip's acting career.
Not only was Philip a success in theater, but he also has appeared as a regular, recurring role or guest star in over 200 network television episodes. He has co-starred in over two dozen movies of the week. Among his TV appearances are Seinfeld; Cheers; Third Rock From the Sun; Chicago Hope; LA Law; M*A *S*H*; The Practice; Millenium; Michael Hayes; and the soon to be seen NBC series, The Mob.
In feature films, Philip has starred or co-starred in more than 25 movies including such well-known films as Boogie Nights; Air Force One; The Rock; Kiss of Death; Hard Eight; Midnight Run; Say Anything; Three O’Clock High; and the soon to be released Jim Carey film, The Truman Show.
Although known primarily as a "character actor," perhaps Philip’s most notable acting achievements were his starring roles in two extraordinary films, Robert Altman's Secret Honor (1984) and Hard Eight (1997). In Secret Honor, he played Richard Nixon, "disgraced and scabrous, raving to the walls about a life of mistakes." Roger Ebert called it "One of the great performances in American movies." He was nominated for Best Actor by both the New York Critics Drama Desk and the Los Angeles Critics; and won the LA Weekly Award for Best Actor for this work. In Hard Eight, a story of "a tangled tale of deception, friendship, and blackmail," he co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow. LA Weekly's year-end issue for1997 selected Philip's performance in Hard Eight as one of the best two film performances of the year, along with Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco. Film critics Siskel & Ebert recently suggested that "Mr. Hall should receive an academy award nomination for his work in Hard Eight."
These days, Philip Baker Hall is a very busy actor, moving from set to set. He and his wife Holly have a 2 year old daughter, Anna Ruth. Philip also has two daughters and four grandchildren from a previous marriage. Despite his busy schedule, he enjoys playing with his daughter and also tries to find time for tennis and camping.
Philip was "surprised, flattered, and very proud" when notified of his election into the Woodward Hall of Fame. It is an award long overdue. PHILIP BAKER HALL-remember that name-and look forward to seeing it listed in TV or movie credits, when they roll in your living room or favorite movie theater.