Marshall Thompson

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Marshall Thompson
Marshall Thompson in Twice Blessed trailer.jpg
in Twice Blessed (1945)
James Marshall Thompson

(1925-11-27)November 27, 1925
DiedMay 18, 1992(1992-05-18) (aged 66)
Years active1944–1991
SpouseBarbara Long (m.1949)

James Marshall Thompson (November 27, 1925 – May 18, 1992) was an American film and television actor.

Early years[edit]

Thompson was born in Peoria, Illinois.[1] He and his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Laurence B. Thompson, moved to California when he was a year old. He attended University High School where he was a classmate of Norma Jean Baker, later to be known worldwide as Marilyn Monroe. Thompson enrolled at Occidental College with plans to become a dentist, but he switched to divinity studies.[2]


In 1943, Thompson, known for his boy-next-door good looks, was signed by Universal Pictures. He played quiet, thoughtful teens in Universal's feature films, including a lead opposite singing star Gloria Jean in Reckless Age, earning $350 weekly. During 1946, Universal discharged most of its contract players, so that same year Thompson moved over to MGM. His film roles steadily increased and improved with appearances in The Clock, the lead in Gallant Bess, MGM's first film shot in Cinecolor, and as one of the main stars in Battleground, as a green replacement in the 101st Airborne Division during the Siege of Bastogne.


At the age of 24, Thompson narrated the storyline in Stars in My Crown (1950). He became a freelance actor during the 1950s and worked for various studios on a variety of pictures, including the horror and science fiction films Cult of the Cobra (1955), Fiend Without a Face (1958), and First Man Into Space (1959), as well as Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back (1955). His starring role as Carruthers in It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) was one of the two genre films that later inspired the plot for director Ridley Scott's 1979 big-budget feature Alien. Thompson also starred in the short-lived (13-episodes) 1959 syndicated science fiction TV series World of Giants. The drama follows Mel Hunter, a U. S. counter-espionage agent, accidentally miniaturized to just six inches in height, who must live in a dollhouse when not on missions.[3]: 1196-1197 


By the 1960s, Thompson's boyish looks had matured and his screen persona became more authoritative. He co-starred with the Belgian-born Annie Fargé in the 33-episode CBS sitcom Angel (1960–1961)[4] about an American architect with a charming but scatterbrained French wife, who often got into zany, Lucy Ricardo-esque situations, caused in part by her lack of fluency in the English language. The show was canceled after 33 episodes due to low ratings, despite critical acclaim for the newcomer Fargé.

He also guest starred as murderer Arthur Poe in the 1960 Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Wayward Wife".

Thompson went on to star in two Vietnam War films: A Yank in Viet-Nam (1964), which he also directed, and To the Shores of Hell (1965). The former was directed by Thompson and was shot on location in South Vietnam.

In 1965 he returned to MGM to play the lead in the Ivan Tors produced comedy-adventure film Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965).[5] He played Dr. Marsh Tracy, a veterinarian and single father, who is raising his daughter (played by animal whisperer and Golden Globe-winning Cheryl Miller) alone in Kenya. The film was then spun off into the TV series Daktari (1966–1969), in which Thompson played the same role.[3] Since the series was shot in California and Africa, Thompson and his wife made several trips to various African nations to film second unit footage that was then used in the series[6] and in the film The Mighty Jungle (1965).

Thompson also was the host and storyteller for the TV anthology series Jambo (1969-1971).[3]: 524 

Later years[edit]

Later in his career, he appeared in many television episodes and in feature films such as The Turning Point (1977) and The Formula (1980).

Personal life[edit]

Thompson married Barbara Long in 1949, making him a brother-in-law of actor Richard Long, best known for his role as Jarrod Barkley in ABC's The Big Valley. Thompson appeared together with his brother-in-law in the 1955 horror film thriller Cult of the Cobra.

Thompson supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.[7]

Thompson died in 1992 from congestive heart failure at age 66 in Royal Oak, Michigan.[8]



Thompson's 60+ film roles include:


Thompson's 50+ television roles include:


  1. ^ Raw, Laurence (2012). Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930Ð1960. McFarland. p. 185. ISBN 9780786490493. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  2. ^ Todd, John (December 10, 1945). "In Hollywood". Indiana, Tipton. The Tipton Daily Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved March 20, 2016 – via open access
  3. ^ a b c Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  4. ^ Tucker, David C. (2014). Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television: Thirty Sitcoms That Faded Off Screen. McFarland. pp. 5–11. ISBN 9780786455829. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Marshall Thompson, 'Daktari' Actor, 66". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1992-05-28. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-08-29.
  6. ^ "Daktari on location: Marshall Thompson in the "real" Africa". 8 May 2014.
  7. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2013-10-21). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. ISBN 9781107650282.
  8. ^ Willis, John (2000). Screen World 1993: Comprehensive Pictorial and Statistical Record of the 1992 Movie Season. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 268. ISBN 9781557831750. Retrieved 1 April 2017.

External links[edit]