- For the bank robber see Forrest Tucker (criminal)
Tucker in the role of “Professor” Harold Hill, 1962.
|Born||Forrest Meredith Tucker
February 12, 1919
Plainfield, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||October 25, 1986
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||lung cancer|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)|
|Spouse(s)||Sandra Jolley (1940–50) (one child)
Marilyn Johnson (1951–60) (her death)
Marilyn Fisk (1961–85) (two children)
Sheila Forbes (1986) (his death)
Forrest Meredith Tucker (February 12, 1919–October 25, 1986) was an American actor in both movies and television from the 1940s to the 1980s. Tucker, who stood 6′4″ tall and weighed 200 pounds, appeared in nearly a hundred action films in the 1940s and 1950s.
Early life and education
Tucker was born in Plainfield, Indiana, a son of Forrest A. Tucker and his wife, Doris Heringlake. He began his performing career at age 14 at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, pushing the big wicker tourist chairs by day and singing “Throw Money” at night. After his family moved to Washington, D.C., Tucker attracted the attention of Jimmy Lake, the owner of the Old Gaiety Burlesque Theater, by winning its Saturday night amateur contest on consecutive weeks. After his second win, Tucker was hired full-time as master of ceremonies at the theatre. However, his initial employment there was short-lived; it was soon discovered that Tucker was underage. Tucker graduated from Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., in 1938.
Lying about his age, Tucker then joined the United States Army cavalry. He was stationed at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, but was discharged when his age became known. He returned to work at the Old Gaiety after his 18th birthday.
When Lake’s theatre closed for the summer in 1939, Tucker traveled to California and began auditioning for movie roles. He was cast as Wade Harper in The Westerner (1940), which starred Gary Cooper. He stood out in a fight scene with Cooper and was signed to Columbia Pictures.
Tucker enlisted in the United States Army again during World War II, earning a commission as a second lieutenant. He resumed his acting career at the war’s end, appearing in the classic 1946 film The Yearling and stealing a few scenes from Errol Flynn in Never Say Goodbye the same year.
In 1948 Tucker left Columbia and signed with Republic Pictures. At Republic, he made his breakthrough in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), as PFC Thomas, a Marine with a score to settle with John Wayne’s Sergeant Stryker. Graduating to top billing, Tucker starred in numerous action films during the 1950s, including Rock Island Trail (1950), California Passage (1950), Rage at Dawn (1955, where he played Frank Reno), The Abominable Snowman (1957), The Quiet Gun (1957), and The Crawling Eye (1958).
The year 1958 brought another turning point in his career, when he won the role of Beauregard Burnside, Mame’s first husband in Auntie Mame, the highest grossing U.S. film of the year. Tucker showed a flair for light comedy under the direction of Morton DaCosta that had largely been unexplored in his roles in westerns and science fiction films.
Stage and television star
A two-year stint on television in the series Crunch and Des from 1955 to 1956 with Sandy Kenyon, featuring Forrest as a charter-boat captain in the Bahamas, was well received. Tucker was cast as “Professor” Harold Hill by director Da Costa in the national production of The Music Man and played the role 2,008 times over the next five years, including a 56-week run at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago. Following his Music Man run, Tucker starred in the Broadway production of Fair Game for Lovers (1964) and then turned to television for his most famous role, starring as frontier capitalist Sgt. Morgan O’Rourke in F Troop (1965–67). Though F Troop lasted only two seasons on ABC, the series has been in constant syndication since, reaching three generations of viewers. (Two of his Gunsmoke episodes feature Tucker in his cavalry uniform again, as the comic Sergeant Holly (1970), who in one scene “marries” and spends a hectic night with Miss Kitty.) He appeared in many television series, including CBS’s Appointment with Adventure in the 1956 series finale titled “Two Falls for Satan,” ABC's Channing a drama about college life that aired during the 1963–64 season. In 1961, Tucker appeared on NBC in Audie Murphy’s short-lived western series Whispering Smith.
Following F Troop, Tucker returned to films in character parts (Barquero and Chisum, both 1970) and occasional leads (1975's The Wild McCullochs). On television, Tucker was a frequent guest star, including a total of six appearances on Gunsmoke and the recurring role of Jarvis Castleberry, Flo's estranged father on the 1976-1985 TV series, Alice and its spinoff, Flo. Tucker was a regular on three series after F Troop: Dusty's Trail (1973) with Bob Denver; The Ghost Busters (1975–76) which reunited him with F Troop co-star Larry Storch; guest star on The Bionic Woman as J.T. Conners and Filthy Rich playing the second Big Guy Beck. (1982–83). He continued to be active on stage as well, starring in the national productions of Plaza Suite, Show Boat, and That Championship Season.
Tucker suffered from severe alcoholism in his final years but returned to the big screen after an absence of several years, in the Cannon Films action film Thunder Run (1986), playing the hero, trucker Charlie Morrison. His final film appearance was Outtakes, a low-budget imitation of The Groove Tube.
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His feature film comeback was short-lived. He died from lung cancer and emphysema on October 25, 1986, a few months after the theatrical release of Thunder Run and Outtakes. He was interred in Forest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Tucker married four times: (1) to Sandra Jolley (1919–86), divorced in 1950, daughter of the character actor I. Stanford Jolley (who also died of emphysema) and the sister of the Academy Award-winning art director Stan Jolley, (2) to Marilyn Johnson on March 28, 1950, and after her death in 1960 (3) to Marilyn Fisk on October 23, 1961. He had a daughter (Pamela “Brooke” Tucker) by his first marriage and a daughter (Cindy Tucker) and son (Forrest Sean Tucker) by his third. (4) In 1986, he married Sheila Forbes.
- The Westerner (1940)
- The Great Awakening (1941)
- Counter-Espionage (1942)
- Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1942)
- Keeper of the Flame (1942)
- Never Say Goodbye (1946)
- The Yearling (1946)
- Coroner Creek (1948)
- Hellfire (1949)
- The Last Bandit (1949)
- The Nevadan (1950)
- California Passage (1950)
- Sands of Iwo Jima (1950)
- Hoodlum Empire (1952)
- Montana Belle (1952)
- Pony Express (1953)
- Laughing Anne (1953)
- San Antone (1953)
- Jubilee Trail (1954)
- Trouble in the Glen (1954)
- Break in the Circle (1955)
- Paris Follies of 1956 (1955)
- Finger Man (1955)
- Rage at Dawn (1955)
- Three Violent People (1957)
- The Abominable Snowman (1957)
- The Strange World of Planet X (1958)
- The Trollenberg Terror, also known as The Crawling Eye (1958)
- Auntie Mame (1958)
- Fort Massacre (1958)
- Counterplot (1959)
- The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968)
- Chisum (1970)
- Walking Tall: Final Chapter (1977)
- The Rebels (1979)