Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Two Fifties Pop Culture Figures Pass On

Two figures from Fifties pop culture have passed on. One was Frankie Thomas, who played the lead in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, which ran from 1950 to 1955. The son of actors Frank M. Thomas and Mona Fruns, he started acting as a child. He made his debut in 1932, at the age of 11. By 1934 he moved from Broadway to Hollywood, appearing in his first film, Wednesday's Child. He played the lead role of Tim Tyler in the serial Tim Tyler's Luck in 1937. He also played the role of Ted Nickerson in Warner Brothers' series of Nancy Drew movies in the Thirties.

Thomas also appeared in such movies as Boys Town, Flying Cadets, and The Major and The Minor. In the late Forties his career shifted from movies to television. He appeared in the series A Woman to Remember and One Man's Family. It was in 1950 that he received his best known role, that of Tom Corbett. He beat out such actors as Jack Lemmon for the part. Based on Robert Heinlen's nove Space Cadet, the series was very successful. It produced such merchandise as comics and novelisations, and lasted five years on network television. One of the more interesting features of the series was its slang, some of which made its way into American speech of the time. There were such phrases as "spaceman's luck" and "cut your jets." Following Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Thomas found it increasingly difficult to find acting jobs. He switched careers to being an expert on bridges and writing mystery novels.

Thomas died at the age of 85. At his request, his was buried in the uniform he wore as Tom Corbett.

The other pop culture figure from the Fifties who has died recently was Lew Anderson. Anderson was the last person to play Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Show. Anderson was a musician and bandleader. Before and after playing Clarabell he made his living playing with various bands. It was Anderson who closed the show's final episode in 1960. Mute for the series' entire run, Clarabell the Clown finally spoke the words, "Goodbye, kids." Anderson died at the age of 84.

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