December 10, 1941 – Actor and Disney Legend Tommy Kirk is Born
“[Walt Disney] 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.”
On December 10, 1941, Thomas Lee “Tommy” Kirk was born in Louisville, Kentucky. While he was still very young, his family moved to Los Angeles, California. In 1954, he followed his older brother to an audition at the Pasadena Playhouse, and ended up being cast in the production of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! He was soon signed to a talent agency, and began working on television, which brought him to the attention of Walt Disney. Walt cast Kirk as Joe Hardy in the Mickey Mouse Club’s Hardy Boys serial opposite Tim Considine, another well-known Disney player.
Although Kirk found popularity in the Hardy Boys, his star role was Travis Coates in the 1957 film Old Yeller. Thanks to the immense popularity of the film, Kirk was cast in roles of the all-American teenager, frequently teaming with Kevin Corcoran as his younger brother. Kirk had continued success with The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent-Minded Professor, Bon Voyage, and Son of Flubber. The last films Kirk did for Disney were the popular Merlin Jones films, opposite Annette Funicello. In 1963, Disney decided not to renew his contract, and his career stalled in adulthood. He left show business after battling several personal problems, and started his own carpet-cleaning business in the San Fernando Valley. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2006.