Tommy Kirk is dead. An actor best known for his work with Disney in the 1950s and early 1950s 1960s, especially in leading roles in Screaming old man, The shaggy dog, Swiss Robinson family, and more—Kirk’s career derailed in the mid-1960s after developing a drug addiction, a problem highlighted by a high-profile arrest in 1964. (The fact that, at that point, highly conservative studies were realizing that Kirk was gay, it probably didn’t help.) He starred in several of the highest grossing films of the period for Disney., along with a series of beach party movies for AIP that frequently paired him with Annette Funicello, and she was named a Disney Legend in 2006. By Variety, Kirk was reportedly found dead in his Las Vegas home on Tuesday. He was 79 years old.
Like many actors of his generation, Kirk began in television westerns, appearing in TV reader overview, Border, and Gunsmoke when I was only 15 years old. He got his big break in 1956, when Disney cast him as teenage detective Joe Hardy in a series of serialized shorts produced for the second season of Mickey Mouse Club. Kirk and his boy-next-door charms would work regularly for the studio for the next decade, then recounting an anecdote that Walt Disney once called his “good luck charm” for his hit movie series.The most notable of these, at least in terms of Kirk’s career, was that of 1957. Screaming old man. Like Travis Coates, Kirk was the focal point of the film’s sweetness and most especially his sadness, bringing his beloved dog out of his misery in the movie’s memorable heartbreaking climax. That same movie started Kirk’s career as Disney’s favorite teenager. movie star for the next several years, who saw him star in The shaggy dog, The distracted teacher, Swiss Robinson family, and Son of Flubber, often in front of Fred MacMurray, Funicello and his former Hardy Boys and Screaming old man co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran.
In 1963, during the filming of The misadventures of Merlin Jones—Disney refused to renew Kirk’s contract, after the mother of a 15-year-old boy he was in a relationship with Kirk, 21, reported to the study. (Having said that, Jones he made so much money that Disney couldn’t resist inviting him back for a sequel that came out in 1965.) But any possible return—And Kirk’s lucrative beach party movies with AIP, which began with The Maiden and the Martian/Slumber party In 1964, they were sidelined when he was arrested on marijuana charges on Christmas Eve 1964, with reports that barbiturates were discovered in his car that were circulating outside of the study’s control. Several of his films were subsequently reissued, and Kirk began working at low-budget rates, including on the sets of self-proclaimed “schlockmeister” Larry Buchanan.
In subsequent interviews, Kirk said he was not resentful of this treatment, calling himself and his own addictions the cause of his downfall as an actor. The 1970s reportedly saw him rebound from his drug addiction, coming out publicly as gay, and eventually retiring from acting. (His last credit was a small role in a 2001 horror movie, one of six acting jobs he took starting in 1975.) In her memory of him, Disney noticed today that Kirk was recently interviewed for an upcoming post celebrating the making of the 1960s Swiss Robinson family. He also cited his 2006 Disney Legends acceptance speech, in which he stated that, I want to be remembered for my work at Disney, like Swiss Robinson family and Screaming old man. “