Tommy Rettig

Active - 1950 - 1994  |   Born - Dec 10, 1941 in Jackson Heights, NY  |   Died - Feb 25, 1996 in Marina del Rey CA  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Western, Thriller

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Tousle-haired Tommy Rettig was 5 years old when he was cast opposite Mary Martin in the touring version of Annie Get Your Gun. Rettig was first seen on screen in 1950, playing Richard Widmark's son in Panic in the Streets. The youngster's most celebrated screen role was the mischievous piano-playing protagonist in the Dr. Seuss-inspired fantasy The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953). When Brandon de Wilde proved unavailable for the role of Jeff Martin on the upcoming TV series Lassie in 1954, Rettig was among the hundreds of juvenile actors who auditioned for the part. The producers narrowed the casting down to three hopefuls, then allowed Lassie herself to make the final decision; the noble collie instantly walked over to Rettig and affectionately nuzzled the boy. Rettig remained with Lassie for 103 episodes; when he outgrew the role in 1957, he was replaced by Jon Provost as Timmy Martin. In the wake of Lassie, the teen-aged Rettig received several guest-star assignments, but these had dried up by the early 1960s. Rettig worked as a salesman and disc jockey before being cast in the 1966 TV daytime drama Never Too Young, in which he appeared with another ex-child star, Leave It to Beaver's Tony Dow. After this brief spurt of activity, Rettig retired to the life of a farmer. In the 1970s, he went on to work as a drug addiction counselor and later as the head of his own successful computer software service. In 1990, Rettig was invited to make a showbiz comeback as director of the syndicated TV series The New Lassie -- which co-starred his successor on the old Lassie, Jon Provost. Tommy Rettig died in his Marina del Rey home of unknown causes at the age of 54.

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