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      Tommy Kirk

      Tommy Kirk

      Highest Rated: 100% Old Yeller (1957)

      Lowest Rated: Not Available

      Birthday: Dec 10, 1941

      Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, USA

      A likable, boyish player in Walt Disney Pictures' film and television efforts during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tommy Kirk played good-hearted if hapless boys and teenagers in such popular live-action pictures as "Old Yeller" (1957), "The Shaggy Dog" (1957), "The Absent-Minded Professor" (1962) and "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" (1964). Kirk left acting by the 1970s and opened his own successful business. Kirk's best efforts made him one of Disney's most beloved and most recognizable young performers. Born Thomas Lee Kirk in Louisville, KY on Dec. 10, 1941, he was the second of four sons by parents Louis and Lucy Kirk. The family relocated to a ranch near Pacoima, CA, where Kirk spent most of his childhood riding horses. At age 12, he was dared by an older brother to try out for a production of Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!" at the Pasadena Playhouse. There, he met and performed alongside Bobby Driscoll, a former child star whose own stratospheric rise and tragic fall would echo Kirk's life and career path. While appearing in the play, Kirk was discovered by talent agents, who landed him his television debut on the anthology series "TV Reader's Digest" (ABC, 1955-56). More small screen appearances followed, as well as "Freedom's Highway" (1956) a promotional short made by Greyhound Lines. That same year, he auditioned for a serial on "The Mickey Mouse Club" called "Young Davy Crockett." The project never came to fruition, but producers kept him in mind while casting another serial, this time based on the popular Hardy Boys mystery novels. His slight stature and youthful appearance made him the perfect choice to play Joe Hardy, younger brother to Tim Considine's Frank Hardy, in "The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure" (1956-57). Kirk was also sent by Disney to cover the 1956 Republican and Democratic presidential conventions for their newsreels, and lent his voice to a variety of their projects, including several travelogues and animated shorts. The turning point for Kirk's career proved to be "Old Yeller" (1957), a heart-rending adaptation of the Fred Gipson novel about the bond between a young boy (Kirk) and his dog. The film's conclusion, which finds Kirk forced to shoot his beloved pet after it contracts rabies, became a pop culture touchstone and a litmus test for many viewers' fortitude, with those who admitted to crying during "Old Yeller" being universally branded as "softies." The film's popularity boosted Kirk's screen profile considerably; so much so that when he returned for the second Hardy Boys serial, "The Mystery of Ghost Farm" (1957), he was granted quite a bit of screen time. By this time, he had surpassed co-star Considine as the top juvenile lead at Disney, and a favorite of company head Walt Disney himself. Kirk was placed under contract with Disney in 1957, and soon graduated to feature films. He was the teenaged lead in "The Shaggy Dog," Disney's live-action comedy-fantasy about a young science whiz who accidentally turned himself into the title canine with the help of a magic ring. A major hit with young audience, it was the top-grossing film of 1957, besting even "Ben-Hur" (1957) at the box office. Kirk was quickly cast in Disney's big-budget adaptation of "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960) as Robinson's middle son, Ernst. Another giant success for Disney, it too earned the top rank at the 1960 box office tally, and further boosted Kirk's status as a teen idol. The Disney publicity department fed young female readers' eagerness for news about Kirk by concocting elaborate photo shoots that depicted him on dates with his "Shaggy Dog" co-star, Roberta Sherwood, and living what appeared to most eyes as an all-American lifestyle. However, the reality of Tommy Kirk's existence was quite different from what the Disney press machine extolled. Off-camera, Kirk was something of a libertine with a taste for hard partying; he was also gay, a fact that put his career in serious jeopardy. Yet he did little to cover his tracks; late nights left him unprepared and bereft of energy for a day's shooting, but Kirk was a major star for Disney; more importantly, his pictures made money, so the company was more than willing to look past his after-hours proclivities as long as they did not interfere too drastically with his work. The year 1961 saw Kirk add another hit to his growing résumé with "The Absent-Minded Professor," an energetic science fiction-comedy about a genial scientist (MacMurray) who invents "flubber," a substance that gains energy when it strikes a hard surface. Kirk was again the juvenile lead, a high school basketball star who benefits from MacMurray's invention during an important game. After more supporting turns in "Babes in Toyland" (1961) and "Moon Pilot" (1962), Kirk was granted his first starring role in "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones" (1964) as an amiable yet accident-prone scientist-in-training who creates a helmet that allows him to read minds. Kirk's co-star was his female equivalent for Disney, former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. "Merlin Jones" would prove to be Kirk's biggest success with Disney, as well as his Hollywood swan song. A woman approached Disney with a complaint about Kirk's relationship with her 15-year-old son, and Kirk's contract was summarily dropped. He was allowed to complete work on "The Monkey's Uncle" (1965), the sequel to "Merlin Jones," which also marked Funicello's last appearance in a Disney film. Both she and Kirk would head to American International Pictures (AIP), a low-budget company that had struck gold in 1963 with "Beach Party," an innocuous blend of surfing, sex comedy and slapstick. Kirk was quickly snapped up by AIP, which cast him as the male lead opposite Funicello in "Pajama Party" (1964), an absurd comedy about an alien (Kirk) who lands on Earth to study human mating rituals. However, Kirk's brief return to the spotlight was squelched by his bad habits. On Christmas Eve 1964, he was arrested for drug possession at a party, which effectively killed his planned comeback in the John Wayne Western "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965). He returned to diminished roles in a string of films for AIP, including "Village of the Giants" (1965) and "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine" (1966). By the late 1960s, Kirk had been dispatched to AIP's television division for no-budget horrors like "Mars Needs Women" (1967), a straight-faced remake of "Pajama Party," and efforts for exploitation filmmakers like Jack H. Harris with "Mother Goose A-Go-Go" (1966), Larry Buchanan with "It's Alive" (1968) and Al Adamson with "Blood of Ghastly Horror" (1972). During this period, Kirk's drug and alcohol problems ran unabated, which eventually hampered his speech. In the 1970s, Kirk sought help for his dependency issues, and after gaining sobriety, started his own dry-cleaning business, which he managed well into the 1990s. Kirk also acted on occasion, though mostly in films like "Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold" (1995) and "Billy Frankenstein" (1998). In 2006, the Disney Company inducted Kirk into their Disney Legends program, which recognized individuals who had made exceptional contributions to the company. The honor coincided with the release of his Hardy Boys series on DVD that same year. Tommy Kirk died on September 28, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV at the age of 79.

      Highest rated movies

      Old Yeller poster
      Old Yeller
      Son of Flubber poster
      Son of Flubber
      The Absent Minded Professor poster
      The Absent Minded Professor
      Swiss Family Robinson poster
      Swiss Family Robinson
      The Shaggy Dog poster
      The Shaggy Dog
      Savage Sam poster
      Savage Sam
      Babes in Toyland poster
      Babes in Toyland
      Pajama Party poster
      Pajama Party




      No Score Yet No Score Yet Billy Frankenstein Blind Monk (Character) - 1998
      No Score Yet 11% Little Miss Magic Mr. Kenner (Character) - 1997
      No Score Yet 22% Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold Passenger (Character) - 1995
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Streets of Death Frank Phillips (Character) - 1988
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Ride the Hot Wind Captain Gregory Shank (Character) - 1971
      No Score Yet 11% It's Alive! Wayne Thomas (Character) - 1968
      No Score Yet 2% Catalina Caper Don Pringle (Character) - 1967
      No Score Yet 12% It's a Bikini World Mike/Herbert Samson (Character) - 1967
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Track of Thunder Bobby Goodwin (Character) - 1967
      0% 12% Mars Needs Women Dop/Mr. Fast (Character) - 1966
      No Score Yet 48% The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini Chuck Phillips (Character) - 1966
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Unkissed Bride Ted (Character) - 1966
      No Score Yet No Score Yet The Man With the Synthetic Brain Sgt. Cross (Character) - 1965
      17% 20% Village of the Giants Mike (Character) - 1965
      No Score Yet 41% The Monkey's Uncle Merlin Jones (Character) - 1965
      No Score Yet 63% The Misadventures of Merlin Jones Merlin Jones (Character) - 1964
      33% 35% Pajama Party Go Go (Character) - 1964
      50% 46% Savage Sam Travis Coates (Character) - 1963
      88% 47% Son of Flubber Biff Hawk (Character) - 1963
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Escapade in Florence Tommy Carpenter (Character) - 1963
      No Score Yet 55% Moon Pilot Walter Talbot (Character) - 1962
      No Score Yet 38% Bon Voyage! Unknown (Character) - 1962
      83% 62% The Absent Minded Professor Biff Hawk (Character) - 1961
      36% 59% Babes in Toyland Grumio (Character) - 1961
      No Score Yet No Score Yet The Horsemasters Danny Grant (Character) - 1961
      83% 78% Swiss Family Robinson Ernst Robinson (Character) - 1960
      68% 48% The Shaggy Dog Wilby Daniels (Character) - 1959
      No Score Yet 33% The Snow Queen Kay (Voice) - 1959
      100% 79% Old Yeller Travis Coates (Character) - 1957
      No Score Yet No Score Yet The Others Unknown (Character) - 1957


      No Score Yet No Score Yet Disney's Wonderful World Biff Hawk (Character) 1979-1980
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Walt Disney's Disneyland Host 1969
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Mr. Novak Unknown (Guest Star) 1963
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Bachelor Father Unknown (Guest Star) 1959
      No Score Yet No Score Yet Letter to Loretta Mark Seaton (Character) 1956
      No Score Yet 100% Gunsmoke Jerry Pitcher (Guest Star) 1956