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bansi4

"In the Spotlight"

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Hi Mongo, I?m relatively new here and I was directed to your Spotlight thread by lzcutter. I have really enjoyed reading the biographic information and scanning through some great photos of old favorites. I have especially enjoyed learning about two of my favorites: the ?dapper? Jimmy Gleason and the adorable Virginia Weidler. I was wondering if you would consider a Spotlight on child/juvenile actor Frankie Darro. He was featured in THE SIN OF MADELON CLAUDET along with Helen Hayes (her son as a boy), which aired yesterday morning. Thanks again for all your lovely work and here?s hoping you make the next one hundred!

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whistlingypsy, thank you. I'm glad to know that you are enjoing the profiles.

As luck would have it, a profile of Mr. Darro is scheduled in April.

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Darwell as the shrewish, cackling Ma Grier in "The Ox-Bo Incident" (1943)

 

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(L to R) Anthony Quinn, Dana Andrews, Henry Fonda & Darwell

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Darwell in a poignant moment in "The Grapes of Wrath"

 

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Darwell in her final film as the Bird woman in Disney's "Mary Poppins"

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In the Spotlight: Tommy Kirk

 

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The scrappy teen was born Thomas Lee Kirk on December 10, 1941 in Louisville, Kentucky to Baptist parents.

Kirk was discovered by talent agents at the age of thirteen in a production of Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!" at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California.

 

Hired by Walt Disney Productions, he was cast as a clean-cut teenager in "The Hardy Boys" serial feature which was aired in the "The Mickey Mouse Club" television series aired in the 1950s.

Kirk played Joe Hardy opposite Tim Considine as older brother Frank Hardy in two serials.

 

Kirk went on to starring roles in a succession of successful Disney feature films, in both dramatic and comedic settings.

Notably he played Travis Coates in "Old Yeller" (1957), an adventure story about a boy and his heroic dog.

He then played a dog himself in "The Shaggy Dog" (1959), a comedy about a boy inventor. He had a more straightforward role as elder son Ernst in another adventure film, "Swiss Family Robinson (1960).

 

Kirk then played the "scrambled egghead" student inventor Merlin Jones in two comedies, "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" (1964) and "The Monkey's Uncle" (1965). Other major Disney roles for Tommy Kirk included that of college student Biff Hawk in "The Absent-Minded Professor" (1961) and its sequel, "Son of Flubber" (1963), and in the fairy tale fantasy "Babes in Toyland".

 

In several of these films (5), Kirk played the older brother of child actor Kevin Corcoran, better known as Moochie. Veteran actor Fred MacMurray starred in at least four of Tommy Kirk's films, including "Bon Voyage!" with Jane Wyman. Annette Funicello played the girlfriend of Kirk's character in the two Merlin Jones films, and the girl Wilby passes over in "The Shaggy Dog".

MacMurray once reportedly gave Kirk "the biggest dressing-down of my life" during the filming of "Bon Voyage!", which Kirk says he deserved.

His relationships with other actors produced more positive reactions. "Tommy played my brother in a lot of films and put up with a lot of things that I did to him over the years," Corcoran says in a commentary on the DVD release of "Old Yeller". "He must be a great person not to hate me." Tim Considine calls Kirk "a monster talent".

 

Quoted: "Even more than MGM, Disney [in the early 1960s] was the most conservative studio in town....They were growing aware. They weren't stupid. They could add two and two, and I think they were beginning to suspect my homosexuality. I noticed people in certain quarters were getting less and less friendly....In 1963 Disney didn't renew my option and let me go. But Walt let me return to do the final Merlin Jones movie, 'The Monkey's Uncle,' because those were moneymakers for the studio."

 

Kirk also played a part in several of the 1960s Beach Party film and teen movie genres, with appearances in American International Pictures' "Pajama Party" with Annette, and "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini" opposite Deborah Walley, and later in the independent "It's a Bikini World" (paired again with Walley); and starred in "Village of the Giants", among others.

 

Quoted: "In 1965, I'd signed a contract for 'The Sons of Katie Elder' with John Wayne, but a week before shooting I went to a Hollywood party that the vice squad busted because of marijuana. I was handcuffed and photos of me got in the papers with headlines like 'Ex-Disney Child Star Arrested for Pot!' So Wayne and the producers fired me."

In 1966 Kirk starred in "The Unkissed Bride" and in AIP's "Mars Needs Women", released in 1968.

 

Kirk's career tapered off during the 1960s, and

went into an irreversible tailspin. Depressed and angry, he sought solace in drugs and nearly died at one point. For health reasons, he completely abandoned his career and slowly moved forward as a recovering addict.

He put together a successful carpet and upholstery cleaning business which has run steadily for well over two decades.

 

He continued to act occasionally, however, including a role in the R-rated spoof "Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold". He has, as of 2006, a total of more than thirty feature films roles to his credit.

 

Now at age 66, Tommy wants to be remembered for the Disney work, especially "Swiss Family Robinson", his favorite. Kirk today is wiser and has dealt with the issues of his life and their effects. Good for you, kid.

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Great blast from the past, Mongo. I remember Tommy Kirk from those Hardy Boys serials ... my favorite memory from the Mickey Mouse Club.

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Tommy with 'Old Yeller' played by Spike the yellow Lab

 

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Dorothy McGuie, Tommy, and Spike in "Old Yeller" (1957)

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Another great profile Mongo1

It was ashame that he got fired, Like The Producers and Wayne were so goodie. and to be treated like he was a diease, be he was gay, he has talent thats what should be counted for. even take a look back then with what other stars were doing. Sorry for sounding off but it's a shame that he was treated likedirt. I'm gald that you did a profile on him.

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Tommy Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legend in October 2006, alongside his old co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran. (Established in 1987, the Disney Legends programme recognizes people who have made an extraordinary and integral contribution to The Walt Disney Company.)

 

Message was edited by: mongo

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