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Tommy Cook Poster

Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, USA
Nickname Thomas Cook

Mini Bio (1)

Spry, curly-haired, dark-complexioned child actor Tommy Cook's most famous roles happened during his nascent career in serial adventures. He came on the feature film scene auspiciously in the role of young Indian boy Little Beaver alongside western good guy 'Don 'Red' Barry' in the Adventures of Red Ryder (1940), and followed that portraying Kimbu, the young jungle boy, alongside Frances Gifford's heroine Nyoka in Jungle Girl (1941).

Born in Duluth, Minnesota on July 5, 1930, Tommy's father was stricken with Bright's disease, a kidney ailment, which forced the family (which included a sister and grandmother) to seek warmer climate. In California, his mother inspired him toward theatrics and he gained entry at the Pasadena Playhouse where he stayed for seven years. Naturally talented, radio jobs soon cropped up for the youngster.

After appearing in a couple of short films for MGM and RKO, Tommy auditioned for and won the role of Little Beaver in the 12-chapter "Red Ryder" cliffhanger at Republic. He also played the role on radio. On screen Tommy had to learn to ride a horse bareback (star Don Berry also had to learn to ride). While these first two roles were prominent parts that could have insured youthful stardom, it didn't. Tommy continued in films in both highly visible and unbilled parts. The former included active roles in Good Luck, Mr. Yates (1943); Hi, Buddy (1943); as Kimba, the Leopard Boy in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946) with Johnny Weissmuller and Brenda Joyce; a Filipino in American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950) starring Tyrone Power; and played lead delinquents in the films The Vicious Years (1950), for which he won a Photoplay Award for "Outstanding Performance," and in the sub-par propaganda film Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955).

More or less typed in exotic parts, his characters' names were usually dead giveaways -- Paco, Salim, Ponca, Mario, Chito, Pablo, Little Elk and Keoga among them. His transition from child to adult actor was rocky and eventually his career dissipated. A brawny, good-looking man, his short stature may have figured into the problem.

Tommy's days as a standout junior tennis player on the Southern California circuit eventually led to an entirely new existence in mid-life as a respected organizer (emcee/producer/director) of celebrity gala/charity events. He also created stories that led to the feature films Rollercoaster (1977) and Players (1979), the latter a love story with his beloved tennis serving as a background. Tommy has two children.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Elizabeth Saret (1985 - ?) (separated)

Trivia (11)

Portrayed Little Beaver on in the Republic film serial Adventures of Red Ryder (1940), then went on to recreate his role in Mutual Radio's "The Adventures of Red Ryder" (1942-1945). This led to his early typecasting in olive-skinned ethnic film roles as Africans, Indians, Italians, Hispanics, Arabians, etc.
Known for pulling pranks on film sets. While shooting American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950) starring Tyrone Power, he played a big prank on co-star Micheline Presle. Calling her up at her Manila hotel, he disguised his voice as a foreign hotel manager and told her they were moving her to another hotel. Ms. Prelle packed up her belonging and waited for hours at the hotel lobby waiting for a driver to take her to her new lodgings.
Two of his very early films were actually shorts: Mutiny in the County (1940) for RKO, and an "Our Gang"-type comedy called The Greenie (1942) at MGM.
The five-year-old Tommy, along with his mother, grandmother and sister, were seriously injured in a car accident in Van Horn, Texas, while traveling from Minnesota to California. The other driver was intoxicated and the driver of Tommy's car fell asleep at the wheel. Tommy suffered facial injuries when he went through the windshield.
Has a son, Mikhael Thomas Cook and adopted daughter, Sara Jane, from Ecuador.
Was one of the leading junior tennis players in Southern Calfiornia at one time and often created/emceed/played tournaments for charity. Instigated the Bobby Riggs/Billie Jean King challenge before it was televised.
A TV series script he created for himself in the 1950's about cops who go undercover to infiltrate dangerous organizations later served as the basis of the Aaron Spelling series Mod Squad (1968).
Discovered at the age of 8 for radio by producer director Arch Oboler, who became his mentor. Tommy became a top child/adolescent radio star of the 1940s.
Lent his voice for several prominent Hanna-Barbera animated series in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Created TV's "Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes" utilizing such stars as Bill Cosby, Farrah Fawcett, Charlton Heston, James Franciscus and Elke Sommer, among a tennis court full of others.
Won a Photoplay Award for "Outstanidng Performance of the Year" for his leading role in The Vicious Years (1950).

Personal Quotes (1)

Why did I not make the transition from child actor to adult actor? I still haven't figured that out! I can give excuses that I was too short and too tough-looking and that the parts wouldn't open up . . . but that's B.S. I just, for some reason, didn't.

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