Tommy Kirk

Active - 1957 - 2000  |   Born - Dec 10, 1941   |   Genres - Comedy, Children's/Family, Drama, Science Fiction, Horror

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American actor Tommy Kirk tried out as a youngster for the Pasadena Playhouse, the result of a dare made by Kirk's older brother. After a few minor TV roles, Kirk was signed by Walt Disney, who cast the teenager as one-half of "The Hardy Boys" on that popular daily segment of The Mickey Mouse Club. Young Kirk was promoted to the leading juvenile role in Disney's Old Yeller (1957), a three-handkerchief classic that made Kirk a star and a stalwart of the fan club set. In 1959, Kirk was the hirsute protagonist of The Shaggy Dog, one of Disney's biggest money-making films. When asked in later years, Kirk had fond memories of Disney but was not so politely inclined to his Shaggy Dog co-star Fred MacMurray. It was MacMurray who gave Kirk "the biggest dressing down of my life" on the set of Disney's Bon Voyage (1962). Kirk would confess that he fully deserved the scolding; at the time of the shooting, Kirk was addicted to amphetamines, and his resultant behavior was both erratic and obstructive. Whatever MacMurray told Kirk on the Bon Voyage set was quickly forgotten, however, for the young actor was fired from the 1965 John Wayne vehicle Sons of Katie Elder because of his being busted for marijuana use. As a consequence of crossing the "Duke," Kirk was effectively shut out of the big studios, and was forced to settle for silly leading roles in the American-International Beach Party films, and in such low-grade farragoes as Mars Needs Women (1968). Compelled to take menial jobs after his movie career ended, Kirk attempted a theatrical comeback in the early '70s, but he had been forgotten by all but Disney buffs. Whatever the case, Tommy Kirk has overcome his drug problems in recent years and has become a favorite all over again on the nostalgia convention-circuit.

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