Died: September 28, 2021.
TOMMY KIRK, who has died aged 79, was a Walt Disney youngster star who appeared in certainly one of household cinema’s most tear-jerking scenes. Within the 1957 coming-of-age film Previous Yeller, he performed Travis Coates, a rancher’s son who bravely volunteers to shoot the beloved canine he has taken in as a stray when it contracts rabies. “No, Mama, he’s my canine,” he tells Dorothy McGuire within the ultimate scene. “I’ll do it.”
Humour changed heartache when Kirk consolidated his display persona because the “all-American boy” by starring two years later in The Shaggy Canine as a younger inventor. Comedy got here out of the premise of an enchanted ring of the Borgias remodeling him into an previous English sheepdog.
The movie was the yr’s second-highest-grossing on the American field workplace – crushed solely by Ben-Hur and forward of Some Like It Scorching – and
was Disney’s most worthwhile film of the 1950s, encouraging it to proceed making live-action comedies.
The studio then forged Kirk as Ernst, the center of John Mills and Dorothy McGuire’s three sons, in Swiss Household Robinson (1960). The journey a few shipwrecked household was the film of which he was most proud.
He performed a science scholar of Fred MacMurray’s college-lecturer inventor in The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and its sequel, Son Of Flubber (1963).
However, whereas filming the household comedy Bon Voyage! (1962) with MacMurray appearing his father, the Hollywood stalwart gave him what Kirk described as “the largest dressing-down of my life” for his behaviour on set. He stated he was “repellent” to MacMurray, mockingly as a result of he was searching for a father determine and “was simply too demanding”.
He additionally stated he “received to hate” Jane Wyman, enjoying his mom, and regarded her as “cold-hearted”, whereas she “went out of her solution to be s****y”. Kirk added that he believed her to be homophobic.
It was whereas filming The Misadventures Of Merlin Jones (1964), starring as a genius scholar, that Kirk – in a giant money-spinning film on the peak of his success
– was reported to Disney by a girl who stated he had been having a relationship along with her 15-year-old son.
Walt Disney personally fired him, maintaining the small print out of the general public eye, however American Worldwide Photos was fast to signal Kirk as much as play a Martian invader in Pajama Social gathering (1964), the fourth within the fashionable Seashore Social gathering motion pictures geared toward a teen viewers.
When Disney noticed the potential for a Merlin Jones sequel, The Monkey’s Uncle (1965), following the success of the unique, he was welcomed again to the fold to reprise his position in one other box-office hit.
Then, on Christmas Eve 1964, after taking pictures had completed, police arrested Kirk at a Hollywood occasion on suspicion of marijuana possession. Though he was not prosecuted for that, they found barbiturates in his automobile however, when charged, he was discovered not responsible as a result of the tablets had been obtained on prescription.
Regardless of this, the publicity led him to be dropped from How To Stuff A Wild Bikini, one other within the Seashore Social gathering sequence, in addition to a task alongside John Wayne in The Sons Of Katie Elder (each 1965).
Kirk managed a return, on the prime of the forged, for The Ghost within the Invisible Bikini (1966), with one critic describing him as “cute and perky”, however he did have drink and medicines issues, and his profession by no means totally recovered.
Within the mid-1970s, after kicking his habits, and publicly popping out as homosexual, he left showbusiness to run his personal carpet-cleaning and furnishings upholstery enterprise, though he made just a few display cameo appearances in later years.
Thomas Harvey Kirk was the second of 4 sons born to Lucy (nee Day), a authorized secretary, and Louis Kirk, a mechanic with the highways division, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was solely 15 months previous when the household moved to Downey, California, and his father took a job in an aeroplane manufacturing unit through the Second World Battle.
On the age of 12, he tagged alongside when his brother Joe unsuccessfully auditioned for a task within the Eugene O’Neill play Ah, Wilderness! on the Pasadena Playhouse: Kirk landed a small half himself as his namesake, Tommy.
When an agent noticed him, he was forged in The Final Of The Taking pictures Sheriffs episode of the TV Reader’s Digest anthology drama sequence.
His large break got here when Disney auditioned him for Younger Davy Crockett, a serial for The Mickey Mouse Membership present, however it was by no means made. As a substitute, he was forged as Joe, the youthful brother, in The Hardy Boys, which adopted the adventures of the pair of younger sleuths via two serials (1956-57).
In his string of Disney movies, one of many few misses was Savage Sam (1963), the sequel to Previous Yeller.
His fondest reminiscence was bumping into Walt Disney, who was with an actor-cum-gossip columnist at a Beverly Hills lodge. “He put his arm round me,” recalled Kirk, “and he stated, ‘That is my good-luck piece right here,’ to Hedda Hopper. I by no means forgot that. That’s the nicest praise he ever gave me.”
However he acknowledged his personal half in his downfall. “I don’t blame anyone however myself and my drug abuse for my profession going haywire,” he stated in 1990.
After working Tommy Kirk’s Carpet and Upholstery for 20 years, he retired, though made a display comeback with small roles in a number of low-budget movies, akin to Assault Of the 60 Foot Centerfolds (1995) and The Training Of A Vampire (2001).
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