Tommy Farrell, a nightclub comedian and prolific movie and TV character actor who was the last living B-western sidekick, has died. He was 82.
Farrell, the son of actress Glenda Farrell, died Sunday of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Fund hospital in Woodland Hills.
On television in the 1950s, Farrell played Cpl. Thad Carson on "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," and had recurring roles on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" and "Bourbon Street Beat."
A 2003 Golden Boot Award recipient, he appeared frequently in movie and TV westerns, including "Gunsmoke" and "Rawhide."
"He was the last living B-western sidekick from that golden era of westerns," said Boyd Magers, editor and publisher of Western Clippings, referring to the handful of films that Farrell made at Monogram with B-western star Whip Wilson in the early 1950s.
Farrell was born in Hollywood and, he once said, "I practically grew up on the Warner Bros. lot," where his mother costarred in films such as "Little Caesar" and "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang."
He attended St. John's Military Academy in Los Angeles and was a drama student at the University of Arizona before making his Broadway debut as a young drummer in "Strip for Action," the first of three Broadway shows.
While serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he appeared in Moss Hart's Broadway show "Winged Victory" and was in the touring company and movie version.
Farrell was performing in a comedy nightclub act with Gene McCarthy when western film actor Don "Red" Barry discovered him on stage at Ciro's and cast him in the 1950 western "Gunfire."
Farrell went on to appear in four movie serials, including "Pirates of the High Seas" and "Gunfighters of the Northwest." He also appeared in a string of films, including Elvis Presley's "Kissin' Cousins" and "A Guide for the Married Man" with Walter Matthau. While under contract to Warner Bros., he appeared in "Hawaiian Eye," "Maverick," "Cheyenne" and other Warner TV shows.
As a comic, Farrell was in three different comedy teams and headlined for 13 years in vaudeville theaters, hotels and nightclubs. He and his partners were featured on the variety shows of Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason, as well as on comedy specials starring Lucille Ball, George Burns and others. While Farrell was partnered with Peter Marshall, they starred in "Two of the Most," a 1956 variety show on ABC in New York City.
Farrell is survived by his wife of 43 years, Bobbi; son Mark Farrell; daughters Erin Farrell, Ellen Farrell and Kathy Meidel; and three grandchildren.
A memorial will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills.