Walter Abel received his acting training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. He had his first appearance in Repertoirtheater and vaudeville on 1 March 1918 his first appearance as a professional the following year at the Manhattan Opera House. He then worked on Broadway and came in the early 1930s to the film. Frank Borzage cast him in his 1930 film adaptation of Ferenc Molnár's Liliom piece, but five years later he received his next film role in The Three Musketeers, he played 1935 D' Artagnan. Since this main role, he was now seen rarely on the stage, this was mainly due to its compact figure, lack of eloquence and the concomitant weak charisma. In the 1950s, his work focused on roles in television films and series.
Walter Abel was married to the Konzertharfenistin Marietta Bitter. He died in 1987 of a heart attack.