Tommy Kirk, Star of Disney’s “Old Yeller” and “The Shaggy Dog,” Dies at 79

Tommy Kirk, the actor best known for his childhood roles in Disney classics like “Swiss Family Robinson” and “Son of Flubber”, has passed away.

According to a Facebook post written by “The Donna Reed Show” actor Paul Petersen II, the “intensely private” 79-year-old was living alone in Las Vegas at the time of his death on Tuesday night.

“Please know that Tommy Kirk loved you, his fans,” Petersen wrote. “You raised him when an industry let him down in 1965.”

Kirk, who Petersen said was “a stranger to what’s left of his family by blood,” told Kevin Minton in a 1993 issue of “Filmfax” magazine that being openly gay ruined his career at Disney. “When I was about 17 or 18, I finally admitted to myself that [I was gay and] was not going to change, ”he said. “Disney was a family movie studio and I was supposed to be their leading young man. After they found out I was involved with someone, Disney was over.

Born December 10, 1941 in Louisville, Kentucky, Kirk made his debut with appearances in series such as “Gunsmoke” and “The Loretta Young Show” before making a name for himself as a young Disney star. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he played the role of Joe Hardy in two television series based on the detective novels “The Hardy Boys”, alongside Tim Considine.

In 1957, Kirk reprized this role in “The Mickey Mouse Club” before making headlines in big-ticket Disney films such as “Old Yeller”, “Shaggy Dog”, “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “The Misadventures of. Merlin Jones.

After his Disney days ended, Kirk signed with American International Pictures (AIP) and became a prominent man in beach party films, a genre popular in the 1960s. 1964 saw him reunite with his frequent co-star Annette Funicello from “Shaggy Dog” and “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones”, with whom he also directed travelogues and musicals. Fred MacMurray, another collaborator from the early Disney era, also appeared with him in a series of comedies and family comedies in the 1960s.

Tommy Kirk in an advertisement still for “Old Yeller” from 1957 (Disney)

Over the next decade, Kirk would make appearances in a series of sci-fi, horror, and beach party films, such as “The Ghost in the Bikini”, “It’s a Bikini World” and “Blood. of Ghastly Horror “. He spent the rest of his career occasionally in low budget movies and TV dramas. His last featured credit was Albert Kornfield in “The Education of a Vampire” in 2001.

The Clark County, Nevada Coroner’s Office told TheWrap the case was ongoing and therefore could not confirm Kirk’s death.


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