Walter Darwin Coy (January 31, 1909 – December 11, 1974) was an American stage, radio, film, and, principally, television actor. He was best known for narrating the NBC western anthology series, Frontier, which aired early Sunday evenings in the 1955–1956 season, and as John Wayne’s murdered brother in the film classic The Searchers (1956).
Originally from Great Falls, Montana, Coy was the son of Theodore Coy, who had a furniture store. The family moved to Seattle, Washington, around 1923. He played varsity football at the University of Washington and majored in dramatics.
Before Coy became an actor, he worked at salmon canneries in Alaska. In 1929, he moved to New York. During World War II, he served in the Army.
Coy performed on Broadway from 1930 to 1948. He appeared in several early Group Theatre productions. He was the first actor to play Lone Wolf on the radio series of the same name.
Of the 31 Frontier episodes, 16 are narrated by Coy:
As the host of Frontier, Coy begins each episode with the line: “This is the way it happened … movin’ west”, and he closes with the refrain: “That’s the way it happened … movin’ west.” Frontier is similar in scope to its predecessor and longer-lasting syndicated anthology series Death Valley Days, which went through a series of hosts, including The Old Ranger, Ronald W. Reagan, Robert Taylor, and Dale Robertson.
Coy also appeared on Jim Davis’ western anthology series, Stories of the Century in the role of Sam Clayton in the 1954 episode entitled “Tom Horn,” an account of the western lawman-turned outlaw Tom Horn. He appeared on many other western television programs, including Cheyenne, Bronco, Cimarron City, The Lone Ranger, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (one episode as Ben Thompson), Shotgun Slade, The Deputy, Bonanza, Bat Masterson, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Trackdown, Tales of Wells Fargo, Yancy Derringer, Laramie, Two Faces West, Lawman, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Restless Gun, The Rough Riders, Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre, Pony Express, Rawhide, Mackenzie’s Raiders, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Texan, The Man from Blackhawk, Hotel de Paree, Overland Trail, Maverick, The Virginian, The Big Valley, Bat Masterson, Laredo, The Outcasts, Wagon Train (five times), and Robert Conrad’s The Wild Wild West.
Coy appeared as John Wayne’s doomed brother in the film The Searchers (1956). In 1957, Coy portrayed. Dr. Joseph Warren in the Walt Disney film Johnny Tremain, based on the 1943 Esther Forbes historical novel of the American Revolution. Warren was the physician who operates successfully on the accidentally burned hand of title character Johnny Tremain, an apprentice silversmith, played by Hal Stalmaster, who one day had expected to own his own shop and become wealthy. Dr. Warren, a spy for the Patriots, was thereafter killed six days after his 34th birthday fighting as a common soldier in the Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston, Massachusetts.
Coy’s other film appearances included The Lusty Men (1952), Gunmen from Laredo, The Gunfight at Dodge City, and North by Northwest (all 1959), and as Ike Garvey in Five Guns to Tombstone (1960).
Other television roles
Coy portrayed Jason Farrel in the ABC soap opera Flame in the Wind (1965), King Zorvac in the syndicated science fiction series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (1954):905 and Jason in the ABC serial A Time for Us.:1085 He appeared in the anthology series Schlitz Playhouse of Stars and Four Star Playhouse (four times each) and The Loretta Young Show (three times). He played a Confederate States of America general in the 1959 episode entitled “Corporal Hardy” of another anthology series, Alcoa Theatre. He played Dr. Steele in the 1960 episode “The House in Order” on NBC’s The Barbara Stanwyck Show. Coy also appeared in all three of Rod Cameron’s 1950s syndicated series, City Detective, State Trooper, and Coronado 9.
Coy played future U.S. President Thomas Jefferson in the 1955 episode “Eli Whitney Invents the Cotton Gin (May 27, 1793)” on the CBS anthology You Are There, a look at the inventor Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, which greatly enhanced the cultivation of cotton. He portrayed U.S. Senator and 1860 Democratic presidential nominee Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois in the 1957 episode “Springfield Incident” of CBS’s The 20th Century Fox Hour. He also played a prosecutor on the same series in 1956 in the episode “The Last Patriarch”. Coy made four guest appearances on Perry Mason, including the role of murder victim Denver Leonard in the 1960 episode, “The Case of the Prudent Prosecutor.”
Other guest-starring roles in drama include Crusader, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, Crossroads, Whirlybirds, U.S. Marshal, Rescue 8, The Lineup, East Side/West Side, Mr. Adams and Eve, Mike Hammer, The Defenders, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Navy Log, Tightrope, Lock-Up, Lassie, Ironside, M Squad, and I Spy. Coy also appeared in two comedies, McKeever and the Colonel and Hazel.
Coy’s last television role was as Chief Blackfish on the NBC series Daniel Boone in the 1970 episode “How to Become a Goddess”.
Coy died of congestive heart failure at the age of 65 in Santa Maria, California.