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Actor Tommy Kirk (1941-2021)


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The actor Tommy Kirk, who appeared in numerous Disney movies and television productions in the 1950s and 1960s, has died at the age of 79. He was one of many memorable young stars -- including Annette Funicello and Kevin "Moochie" Corcoran --who achieved fame on "The Mickey Mouse Club."

The Hollywood Reporter said Kirk (pictured below at a memorabilia show) lived alone, and his body was found Tuesday in Las Vegas. 

Kirk once said that his career with The Mouse Factory was short-circuited because he was gay. “Disney was a family film studio and I was supposed to be their young leading man," he said. "After they found out I was involved with someone, that was the end of Disney.”

Kirk also fell from grace after an arrest on December 24, 1964 on suspicion of marijuana possession at a Hollywood residence. He wasn't prosecuted for that or for a charge of possessing illegal drugs after barbiturates were found  in his car. But his career suffered because of the incidents.

File:Tommy Kirk, 2009 Disney D23 Expo-2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Tim Considine and Kirk played the junior detectives Frank and Joe Hardy in episodes of "The Hardy Boys" -- serialized adventures that aired on "The Mickey Mouse Club." They appeared in "The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure" (1956) and "The Mystery of the Ghost Farm" (1957). Both actors and Corcoran were inducted as Disney Legends in 2006.

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Kirk starred in the classic 1957 Disney feature film "Ole Yeller," the story of young Travis Coates and his family as they coped with problems at their late-1860s Texas homestead while the father (Fess Parker) was away on business. Travis drew some comfort from his relationship with the title dog, which helped protect the boy, his mother Katie (Dorothy McGuire) and brother Arliss (Corcoran). The film was based on the award-winning 1956 children's novel by Fred Gipson. The movie's unforgettable ending inspired a funny sequence in a Season 2 episode of TV's "Friends," in which Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) discovered that her mother had misled her as a child by turning off the TV before the climactic scene.

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Considine and Kirk played romantic rivals in  1959's "The Shaggy Dog," the popular Disney live-action comedy feature about high school teen Wilby Daniels (Kirk) who became magically transformed into a Bratislavian sheepdog. Although he retained his human consciousness after the shape shift, Wilby realized he was in trouble because his mailman father (Fred MacMurray) detested dogs.

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Kirk was reunited with "Ole Yeller" co-stars McGuire and (Corcoran) for Disney's 1960 adventure film "Swiss Family Robinson," based  on Johann David Wyss' about a family of shipwreck survivors  on an island somewhere in the southwest Pacific. Sir John Mills starred as the family patriarch, McGuire was his wife and their three sons were played by James MacArthur, Kirk and Corcoran.

In 1961, Kirk co starred with MacMurray and Keenan Wynn in Disney's live-action comedy feature "The Absent-Minded Professor,"  MacMurray played the title character, Medfield College's physical chemistry professor Ned Brainard. His legendary absent-mindedness resulted in three canceled wedding ceremonies, which exasperated his fiancée  (Nancy Olson). Meanwhile, his explosive home experiments accidentally created an anti-gravity substance he called "flubber" (a portmanteau for flying rubber). Brainard found himself struggling to fend off the schemes of a greedy land developer named Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn), who wanted to profit from flubber. Kirk played Hawk's son Biff. The movie's 1963 sequel was "Son of Flubber."

The Absent Minded Professor (1961) | Sci-Fi Saturdays | RetroZap

In 1964, it was Kirk's turn to star as a Disney braniac. "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" starred the actor as a college student whose experiments with mentalism resulted in his developing the ability to read minds. The sci-fi comedy also starred Annette, Leon Ames, Stu Erwin, Alan Hewitt and Norman "Woo Woo" Grabowski. 

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Kirk and Annette starred in "The Monkey's Uncle," the 1965 sequel to "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" that revolved around such plot devices as the custody of a chimp named Stanley and the invention of a human-powered flying vehicle. Annette sang the title song with musical backing by The Beach Boys. It was Kirk's final film for Disney. His contract was terminated by Walt Disney after it was discovered he had become involved with a male minor.

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Kirk continued to appear in movies, including the 1968 independent project "Mars Needs Women," which co-starred Yvonne Craig. The sci-fi comedy cast Kirk as a Martian on a search for females for The Red Planet. Although it was not released theatrically, it has developed a cult following through the years.

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Very sad news, but reading his wiki page I don't think his problems were due to his gayness but his drug use. 

Two of his bad movies that I actually enjoy are Mars Needs Women which features lots of locations in 1960s Dallas that I recall from childhood, and Bikini World, which is fun for the juke box musical performances. 

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An unexpected pang upon seeing this. Unexpected because what is Tommy Kirk to me. Then I thought; OMG, Spin and Marty. Which one is he? I was fond of that show and those two guys. I am old enough to see the original episodes. The only scene I remember is when Spin and Marty were both swimming in the opposite direction heading for the same thing. The episode ended and I don't remember what they were swimming after. Anyway, wow, I am so sad.

RIP

EDIT and CORRECTION ; Tommy Kirk was not in Spin and Marty. (but he coulda have)

Still, RIP Mr. Kirk

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7 minutes ago, laffite said:

An unexpected pang upon seeing this. Unexpected because what is Tommy Kirk to me. Then I thought; OMG, Spin and Marty. Which one is he? I was fond of that show and those two guys. I am old enough to see the original episodes. The only scene I remember is when Spin and Marty were both swimming in the opposite direction heading for the same thing. The episode ended and I don't remember what they were swimming after. Anyway, wow, I am so sad.

RIP

"Spin and Marty" was the story of Marty Markham (David Stollery) and Spin Evans (Tim Considine) -- opposites who became great friends while at a boys' summer camp at The Triple 'R' Ranch. It also was a serialized tale on "The Mickey Mouse Club."

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Thanks, Jakeem. I made the correction prior to your post. I became suspicious of possible error when I noticed that Spin and Marty was not mentioned in your opening post. So I looked it up. Rather than delete the post I decided to correct it. The RIP of course would apply in either case.
 

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2 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

Sorry to hear, he looks so sad in this picture.

Found this on Wikipedia.  At least he seemed to be alright during his retirement.

In 2006 he was retired with "a nice pension"[43] and living in Redding, California. He reflected:

As I look back on the whole thing, it gave me the chance to be in three or four movies that people will enjoy long after I'm gone. I heard Pat Boone say in an interview that the bombs are just as important as the hits, because they are all part of life. I'm not bitter. I'm not unhappy things didn't go the way I wanted them to go with my career. I tried to be a good actor and an ethical person. I'm still trying to be an ethical and honest person. But I'm glad to be retired. I live in the middle of a national park, basically, with miles and miles of wilderness. Redding ain't glamorous. Monte Carlo it is not. It's small-town life, and it suits me.

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I enjoyed the films Tommy Kirk made with Deborah Walley;   I think they had good chemistry.    Silly movies,  but I liked them

The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini had Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone,   so it couldn't be that bad. 

TOMMY KIRK, DEBORAH WALLEY, THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, 1966 Stock  Photo - Alamy

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1 hour ago, Lizbeth4 said:

Found this on Wikipedia.  At least he seemed to be alright during his retirement.

In 2006 he was retired with "a nice pension"[43] and living in Redding, California. He reflected:

As I look back on the whole thing, it gave me the chance to be in three or four movies that people will enjoy long after I'm gone. I heard Pat Boone say in an interview that the bombs are just as important as the hits, because they are all part of life. I'm not bitter. I'm not unhappy things didn't go the way I wanted them to go with my career. I tried to be a good actor and an ethical person. I'm still trying to be an ethical and honest person. But I'm glad to be retired. I live in the middle of a national park, basically, with miles and miles of wilderness. Redding ain't glamorous. Monte Carlo it is not. It's small-town life, and it suits me.

And he beat the average life expectancy by 8 years. Not horrible. 

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One of Tommy's movies seems to have disappeared.  TRACK OF THUNDER (1967).  I've never seen it aired anywhere. 

I'm contemplating buying a copy from 'videobeat' (videobeat.com, to be specific) just to have a copy.

I read somewhere -- maybe Wikipedia and/or IMDb that Tommy mentioned having a serious drug problem while filming, but that "Track of Thunder" wasn't as bad some of the other movies he did just for the money.   Tommy looked to have been rather candid in his later interviews about his issues during the 1960s and early '70s.  Still, he managed to stick around to see age 79. 

Rest In Peace. 

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33 minutes ago, Mr. Gorman said:

One of Tommy's movies seems to have disappeared.  TRACK OF THUNDER (1967).  I've never seen it aired anywhere. 

I'm contemplating buying a copy from 'videobeat' (videobeat.com, to be specific) just to have a copy.

I read somewhere -- maybe Wikipedia and/or IMDb that Tommy mentioned having a serious drug problem while filming, but that "Track of Thunder" wasn't as bad some of the other movies he did just for the money.   Tommy looked to have been rather candid in his later interviews about his issues during the 1960s and early '70s.  Still, he managed to stick around to see age 79. 

Rest In Peace. 

I saw Track of Thunder several years ago on YouTube. It wasn't bad. I reviewed it in this thread::

https://forums.tcm.com/topic/30569-richs-b-and-worse-juvenile-delinquent-thread/page/9/?tab=comments#comment-799557

 

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I just recently saw him on another channel that was showing CATALINA CAPER ('67).  Was amused at his character ogling all the bikini clad "babes" considering his being gay.  ;) 

But actors are paid to act, and he did pull it off.(no pun intent).

Rest In Peace.

Sepiatone

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17 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

maybe he ate some of the earth food.

:)

Mars Needs Women! Art & Collectibles Screenprints timeglobaltech.com

Isn't that Yvonne Craig,   who was Batgirl?      I'm trying to find a film that she did with Tommy Kirk but I can't find one and as far as  I can tell,  Kirk never was on the Batman T.V. show.

 

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