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Walter Prichard Eaton


Centurion, 1922–1957

Born 24 August 1878 in Malden, Massachusetts

Died 26 February 1957 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Buried Center Cemetery, Sheffield, Massachusetts

Proposed by George Barr McCutcheon and William J. Henderson

Elected 3 June 1922 at age forty-three

Century Memorial

Walter Eaton prepared at Andover, and graduated from Harvard in 1900. He became involved with drama and play-acting at college, and the career he chose in the theatre began in 1902 with his assignment as assistant drama critic of the Tribune. From there he went to the Sun. He wrote some plays, some books on the theatre, and some very good tales of outdoor ramblings in the Berkshires.

In 1933 he was appointed Professor of Playwriting at Yale, and he taught there until his retirement in 1947. Among his preoccupations were the ideas that the American stage was a struggling business, and that Hollywood was draining off both acting and writing talent. He did not like Hollywood. He said that the movies did not furnish a creative outlet but only the opportunity for passive acceptance. The dumb inertia of the screen-addicts seemed to him a spiritual degradation.

Most of us suffer from this melancholy when we regard the movies. It seems to be a vocational malady endemic among the educated; and the lamentations and denouncements of Eaton were exceedingly pleasant to the ears of those who live along the northeastern seaboard. Besides, he was a most amusing person—the author of jokes that have become part of the Yale tradition. They were very kind to him at Yale (considering he was the immutable product of the Other Institution) and entirely aware of the importance of his contribution to the University. His last years he lived at Chapel Hill, where he was surrounded by cloistered shades and understanding friends.

George W. Martin
1958 Century Association Yearbook