R.I.P. Tommy Kirk, star of Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, and the Hardy Boys of The Mickey Mouse Club

He was named a Disney Legend for his work in The Absent-Minded Professor, Swiss Family Robinson, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones and more.

The Everett Collection

As it often happens with child stars, Tommy Kirk was discovered by accident. His older brother, Joe, wanted a part in a Pasadena Playhouse production of the Eugene O'Neill play Ah, Wilderness! Tommy went to the audition as well and ended up with a role while his brother didn't. The play also featured Disney star Bobby Driscoll, who had already appeared in Treasure Island and voiced Peter Pan. The younger Kirk brother didn't know it at the time, but he was about to join the Disney ranks himself.

Tommy Kirk's stage performance was noticed by a Hollywood agent. Kirk was soon signed and working regularly on TV. He appeared in Gunsmoke and The Loretta Young Show before playing Joe Hardy, with fellow Disney actor and My Three Sons star Tim Considine as Frank Hardy, in Hardy Boys mysteries first seen as segments in The Mickey Mouse Club.

Kirk became an instant star two years after his start in television when he played Travis Coates in Old Yeller. His incredibly moving performance still resonates today as his most memorable role.

Kirk then became Disney's go-to actor for the next eight years. He was a teenager who becomes a sheepdog in The Shaggy Dog, he was shipwrecked with his family in Swiss Family Robinson and he had two run-ins with the zany, flying substance flubber in The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber.

He also starred in the vacation comedy Bon Voyage!, his fourth (out of five) times playing the brother of frequent Disney child actor Kevin Corcoran and also his fourth (and last) time starring alongside My Three Sons dad Fred MacMurray.

Kirk played college genius Merlin Jones in two movies opposite Annette Funicello, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Monkey's Uncle. In 1965, he starred in the cult comedy Village of the Giants with Ron Howard and Johnny Crawford, as seen on Svengoolie.

Though Kirk's Disney partnership ended abruptly after The Monkey's Uncle, he reconciled with the studio years later and was named a Disney Legend in 2006 for his numerous contributions.

Kirk said at the time, "I want to be remembered for my Disney work, like Swiss Family Robinson and Old Yeller." He even recalled a memorable moment with Walt Disney himself. "He was with Hedda Hopper, the legendary columnist. He put his arm around me, and he said, 'This is my good-luck piece here,' to Hedda Hopper. I never forgot that. That's the nicest compliment he ever gave me."

Tommy Kirk passed away this week. He was 79.

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Larry 3 months ago
I" ve always loved Tommy Kirk through the years. I, & my friends growing up always thought that he was gay. When we found out that he was, we were so very happy for him and his life. Shame on, Disney for doing him as they did.
God bless you Tommy, and may you rest in peace.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 3 months ago
I Seen Him In Hardy Boys Then On The Mickey Mouse Club.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 3 months ago
I Liked Tommy Kirk In The Mickey Mouse Club,In Rerun Syndication.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 3 months ago
Tommy Kirk Disney Legend In Heaven.
Hollie 3 months ago
We as a family used to go to the drive inn back in the 60s and 70s and watch his movies ..i was like 9 or 10 they were good ...wish Disney made movies like this still
GOOSEYGOOSE9 3 months ago
A Disney Legend Tommy Kirk RIP.
retro6 3 months ago
Watched him in the Disney and beach movies as well as MMC when they ran in syndication in the 70s as a kid. My brother and I loved the Hardy Boys featured. RIP Tommy
TheDavBow3 3 months ago
I really liked those Disney movies he starred in. Such wholesome family entertainment. Sad. Rest in Peace.
Toonhead 3 months ago
Sorry to hear that. I wanted to be him when I was little. R.I.P bro
JessiJeffries 3 months ago
They really dont make Disney stars like him anymore.
Michael JessiJeffries 3 months ago
They don't make Disney movies like they used to.

Cause Disney became Greedy Communists now
Toonhead trendsetter75 3 months ago
Greedy for sure. I don’t know about communist.? I was thinking more like fascist. But hey, isn’t that all the big infotainment companies these days? Especially Fascistbook. R.I.P. T.K.
rayforhorror 3 months ago
I grew up watching all of the old Disney films as a kid, my parents got a bunch of them on vhs when I was growing up, and I remember the first time I saw Tommy Kirk was in Swiss Family Robinson; later on I saw him in the AIP pics as well as the other low budget fare he was stuck playing in later on in his career. RIP Tommy 😓🙏
TheDavBow3 rayforhorror 3 months ago
I liked the American International movies too. Always fun.
tootsieg 3 months ago
Tommy Kirk was very popular and a teen idol. I loved all the Disney movies that he was in.
DerekJ 3 months ago
I wish they would add those Merlin Jones films to D+. I loved those things.
kenosha 3 months ago
I am so sorry to hear about the passing of such a wonderful actor! He had a wonderful career especially with Walt Disney and all those memorable amazing movies with Walt Disney will be remembered for generations to enjoy
MichaelSkaggs 3 months ago
Made famous, or infamous, in "Garfield." He said, "Old Yeller." My favorite movie. I love a happy ending."
Mob39 3 months ago
So sad to hear what happened to him during his life/career. I had no idea he went through all that. The Swiss Family Robinson will always be a favorite. Rest In Peace. I did not say what he passed away from. Praying he went peacefully. Rest in peace Mr. Kirk. 🙏🏻
Dario 3 months ago
Rest in peace, Tommy. ☺️☺️☺️☺️☺️
Runeshaper 3 months ago
R.I.P. Tommy Kirk, a true Disney Legend. It's extra AWESOME that he had that experience with Walt Disney (-:
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