Will Geer, born in Frankfort, Indiana, attended Columbia University and after graduating joined the legendary New York based "Group Theater" in 1931. The Group, pioneered by Lee Strasberg, Howard Da Silva, Lee J Cobb, and others, held liberal political views and produced many plays with a social conscience.
An early role was in "The Cradle Will Rock," a musical produced by Orson Welles and John Houseman. Because of the performance anti-capitalist theme, the musical was at first banned but later performed by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre.
In the mid 1930's Geer moved to Hollywood and starred in many films including "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (1935), "The Fight for Life" (1940), "Deep Waters" (1948), "Lust for Gold" (1949), "Convicted" (1950), "Broken Arrow" (1950), and "Salt of the Earth" (1954).
In the 1950's he was called to testify by HUAC to explain his involvement in "so-called" radical political organizations in the 1930s and 1940s and, of course, to "name names." Geer refused, and as was the practice, was blacklisted by film producers for doing so. Because he was unable to work in Hollywood, Geer returned to the stage by forming a reparatory theater company known as the "Theatricum Botanicum," on a land he owned in Topanga Canyon, Calif. The theatre still exists.
In 1962 Otto Preminger ended Geer's exile by featuring him in his film "Advise and Consent." Later, Geer became known to millions of fans around the world when he co-starred as Grandpa Walton in the legendary film series, "The Waltons."
Geer married and divorced actress Herta Ware, had one son and two daughters, including actress Ellen Geer. Herta Ware and Ellen Geer are both active in the theatre he founded, "The Theatricum Botanicum."