Tommy Kelly (actor)

Thomas Francis Kelly[1] (April 6, 1925 – January 26, 2016) professionally known as Tommy Kelly was an American child actor. He played the title role in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1938 based on Mark Twain's novel of the same name.

Tommy Kelly
Tommy Kelly as Tom Sawyer (1938)
Born(1925-04-06)April 6, 1925
DiedJanuary 26, 2016(2016-01-26) (aged 90)
OccupationFilm actor
Years active1938–1950
Spouse(s)Sue Kelly (married 1948–2016, his death)
Children6

Early life and career

Kelly was born in the Bronx, the son of Nora and Michael Kelly, a fireman, in humble circumstances.[2] He had twelve siblings.[3] Kelly's grandparents, all four, were from Ireland.[3] He began his acting career at the age of twelve when he was selected to play Tom Sawyer in the 1938 movie The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the first Technicolor adaption of Mark Twain's classic 1876 novel.[2] Approximately 25,000 boys had auditioned for that role and it is said that famous producer David O. Selznick handpicked Kelly for the role.[4] Despite Kelly's earning good critical reviews for his performance, the film was only a poor financial success. He also played the lead role in Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus later that year as Bill Peck.[5]

In 1939, Tommy Kelly had a small but memorable part in Gone with the Wind as the boy crying in a band playing "Dixie" in Atlanta while the death lists are given out. He played the notable supporting role of Willie in Archie Mayo's musical film They Shall Have Music (1939) followed by a leading role as a young cadet in the B movie Military Academy (1940). As he reached adulthood, Kelly's roles in movies were minor and he was often uncredited.[6] He appeared in The Magnificent Yankee[7] in 1950, which turned out to be his last of 19 films before ending his acting career.[6]

As with many other stars, the war years found Tommy in the U.S. Army;[8] he served in the infantry rather than the USO, as did some other child stars. He fought in the European theater, participating in the critical campaign for the bridge at Remagen.

Personal life and death

After his Hollywood days, Tommy Kelly earned a Ph.D. from Michigan State.[8] He worked as a high school teacher and counselor in Culver City and later as an administrator in the Orange County, Florida school system. He worked in Liberia as an administrator for the Peace Corps towards the end of the 1960s.[4] He afterwards served as superintendent of international schools in Liberia and Venezuela.[9] He eventually returned to the United States and worked in an important position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.[10] Ever conscious of the value of education, in his thesis he focused, among other things, on the relative advantages of children who were educated in U.S. military dependent schools abroad. "Dr. Kelly" served as an International Relations Advisor in the International Organization Affairs (IOA) unit of the Office of International Cooperation and Development (OICD) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,[8] where he prepared positions for the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, with personal responsibility for OECD, and United States delegations to the governing boards of United Nations Organizations concerned with Food and Agriculture, a position he held until his retirement from federal service. He also held another teaching job in Washington D.C. in the 1980s.

Kelly was generally reticent about his years as an actor after retiring from Hollywood at the age of 25.[6] He married Sue Kelly in 1948; they were married for 67 years, until his death.[11][12] Kelly died on January 26, 2016, in Greensboro, North Carolina, at age 90 from congestive heart failure.[10][11] He was survived by his wife, six children, twelve grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[11]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes ref
1938 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Tom Sawyer
[13]
Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus Bill Peck
1939 They Shall Have Music Willie Musical film directed by Archie Mayo.
Gone with the Wind Boy in band
[14][15][16][17]
1940 Curtain Call Fred "Freddy" Middleton Comedy film directed by Frank Woodruff. [18]
Irene Michael
[19][20][21]
Military Academy Tommy Lewis
Gallant Sons Harwood "Woody" Hollister
[22][23]
1941 Nice Girl? Ken Atkins American musical film directed by William A. Seiter. [24]
Double Date Hodges
Life Begins for Andy Hardy Chuck Curss
1942 Mug Town Steve Directed by Ray Taylor. [25]
1947 The Beginning or the End Mack
[26][27]
The Fabulous Texan Lee Kilrain
[28][29][30]
1948 He Walked by Night Young hoodlum aka Redhead
[31][32][33]
1949 Adventure in Baltimore Student Drama directed by Richard Wallace. [34]
Battleground Casualty American war film that follows a company in the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division as they cope with the Siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. [35][36]
1950 The West Point Story Cadet
  • Also known as Fine and Dandy.
  • Musical comedy film directed by Roy Del Ruth.
[37][38]
The Magnificent Yankee Secretary American biographical film adapted by Emmet Lavery from his play of the same title, which was in turn adapted from the book Mr. Justice Holmes by Francis Biddle. [39][40][41]

References

  1. Fox, Margalit (2016-02-12). "Tommy Kelly, Who Played a Hollywood Tom Sawyer, Dies at 90". The New York Times.
  2. "Poor boy from Bronx is chosen for star role of Tom Sawyer..." The Evening Independent. Times Publishing Company. June 7, 1937. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  3. "Tommy Kelly USA". The Moving Picture Boy. 2009-06-07. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  4. "Local history: Child film stars take city by storm in 1938". The Scranton Times-Tribune. Times-Shamrock Communications. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  5. "Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus". YouTube. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  6. "Tommy Kelly". Classic Movie Kids. Archived from the original on 15 November 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  7. "The Magnificent Yankee Cast and Crew | TVGuide.com". Movies.tvguide.com. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  8. Daily Mail Staff (February 9, 2016). "Tommy Kelly, 90, star of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer dies". Daily Mail. DMG Media. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  9. "Tommy Kelly". Daily Herald. Paddock Publications. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  10. "Tommy Kelly Dead: 'Tom Sawyer' Star Was 90". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. December 31, 1969. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  11. American Film Institute (1993). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1931-1940, 3 Volume Set. University of California Press. p. 1093. ISBN 978-0520079083.
  12. Fox, Margalit. "Obituary". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
  13. Rudy Behlmer (1972). Memo from David O. Selznick. Viking Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0573606014.
  14. Friedrich, Otto (1986). City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 17–21. ISBN 978-0-520-20949-7.
  15. "The Book Purchase". Gone With The Wind Online Exhibit. University of Texas at Austin: Harry Ransom Center. Archived from the original on June 2, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  16. "The Search for Scarlett: Chronology". Gone With The Wind Online Exhibit. University of Texas at Austin: Harry Ransom Center. Archived from the original on June 2, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  17. "Gone with the Wind (1939) – Notes". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  18. "Curtain Call (1940)". mrqe.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  19. Film review. Variety. Garland Publishing. April 24, 1940. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-8240-5205-8.
  20. Film review. Harrison's Reports. April 27, 1940. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-913616-17-8.
  21. Jewel, Richard (1994). RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television' Vol 14 No 1. p. 55. ISSN 0143-9685.
  22. "Gallant Sons (1940) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  23. Crowther, Bosley (1940-12-12). "Movie Review - A Dispatch from Reuters - THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; Four New Films Open Here: 'Third Finger, Left Hand,' With Myrna Loy--A Dispatch From Reuters, 'Moon Over Burma' and 'Gallant Sons'". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  24. "Nice Girl? (1941)". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  25. "MUG TOWN(1942)". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  26. "Notes: The Beginning or the End (1947)". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  27. Thompson, Nathaniel. "Articles: The Beginning or the End (1947)". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  28. "The Fabulous Texan (1947) - Overview". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  29. T.M.P. (December 26, 1947). "Movie Review - The Fabulous Texan - At the Gotham". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  30. "The Fabulous Texan". Afi.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  31. New York Media, LLC (Jun 9, 1986). Crazy Like A Fox. New York Magazine. p. 179. ISSN 0028-7369.
  32. Alvarez, Max (December 21, 1946). Man Continues to Fight Police Despite Wounds'. p. 285. ISBN 978-1496801036.
  33. Meister, Dick. "Labor - And A Whole Lot More web site, "Too Crazy To Kill"". Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  34. Jewell, Richard; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers. p. 236. ISBN 9780517546567.
  35. Glancy, H. Mark (1992). The Eddie Mannix Ledger. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 12. Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. pp. 127–144. doi:10.1080/01439689200260081. ISBN 978-1-4391-0791-1.
  36. Eyman, Scott (2005). Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer. Simon & Schuster. p. 418. ISBN 978-0743269179.
  37. Brenner, Paul. "The West Point Story > Overview". Allmovie. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  38. "Fresh treatment and new twists to the musical formula make The West Point Story worthwhile entertainment". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. 1950. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  39. Glancy, H. Mark (1992). The Eddie Mannix Ledger. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 12. Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. pp. 127–144. doi:10.1080/01439689200260081. ISBN 978-1-4391-0791-1..
  40. Lovell, Glenn (2008). Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0299228347.
  41. Bettencourt, Scott (2009). David Raksin. "David Raksin at MGM (1950-1957)". Film Score Monthly (CD online notes). 12 (2).
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