Tousle-haired juvenile actor Russ Tamblyn began taking up dancing and acrobatics at the age of six. Needing very little prodding from his parents, the eager Tamblyn embarked on his professional career in the late '40s, performing in radio and Los Angeles musical revues. His first "straight" acting assignment was opposite Lloyd Bridges in the 1947 play Stone Jungle. He entered films in 1948, then was given an "introducing" screen credit for his first starring role in The Kid From Cleveland (1949). Signed by MGM, the young actor changed his billing from Rusty to Russ when cast as an army trainee in 1953's Take the High Ground. Beginning with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Tamblyn became a popular musical star, playing the title role in Tom Thumb (1958) and co-starring as gang leader Riff in the Oscar-winning West Side Story (1961). He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as the teenaged swain of Allison McKenzie (Diane Varsi) in 1958's Peyton Place. By the late '60s, Tamblyn's career had waned, and he was accepting roles in such cheapjack exploitation flicks as Satan's Sadists (1970) and Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971). Russ Tamblyn stuck it out long enough to make a healthy comeback in the late '80s, notably in the role of psychiatrist Lawrence Jacoby on the cult-TV favorite Twin Peaks (1990).
photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
by Hal Erickson biography