Norman Tokar

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Norman Tokar
Norman Tokar.jpg
Born(1919-11-25)November 25, 1919
DiedApril 6, 1979(1979-04-06) (aged 59)
OccupationFilm director
Years active1956–1979
Spouse(s)Phyllis Coates (1955–19??; divorced)
Grace Tokar (1941–1949; divorced)

Norman Tokar (November 25, 1919 – April 6, 1979) was an American director, actor and occasionally writer and producer of serial television and feature films, who directed many of the early episodes of Leave it to Beaver, and found his greatest success directing over a dozen films for Walt Disney Productions, spanning the 1950s to the 1970s.[1][2]


On Broadway, Tokar acted in The Magic Touch (1947), The Life of Reilly (1942), Delicate Story (1940), and See My Lawyer (1939).[3] After that, Tokar moved into radio, most notably The Aldrich Family, where he played Henry Aldrich's friend Willie[4] and wrote several episodes as well. Tokar then went into television direction on such sitcoms as The Bob Cummings Show and The Donna Reed Show, and the drama Naked City.

In the early 1960s, Tokar’s success working with the juvenile actors on 93 episodes of the TV sitcom Leave it to Beaver encouraged Walt Disney to hire him to direct family features for his studio, which frequently used children in key roles. His first feature film assignment was the Western Big Red (1962), followed by the Old Yeller sequel Savage Sam (1963) and Those Calloways (1965). After directing the Fred MacMurray picture Follow Me, Boys!, and the Dean Jones/Suzanne Pleshette slapstick comedy The Ugly Dachshund (both 1966), Tokar's next directorial assignment (Walt Disney's last before his death) was the roadshow musical The Happiest Millionaire (1967). With a Sherman Brothers score and a cast including Fred MacMurray, Greer Garson, Tommy Steele, Lesley Ann Warren, and John Davidson, the studio hoped the film would do as well with critics and audiences as Mary Poppins (1964) had done. When it failed to do so, the studio cut the nearly three-hour film down to 144 minutes and again to 118 minutes for general release; the cut footage went unseen until it was restored in the 1990s.

Tokar followed Millionaire with more examples of the high-concept comedies that became the mainstay of the studio in the 1960s and 1970s: The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968), The Boatniks (1970), and Snowball Express (1972). After directing his only non-Disney feature Where the Red Fern Grows (1974), Tokar made his most commercially successful film; the comedy western The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975). Following Candleshoe (1977), on Tokar's final film before his death, The Cat from Outer Space (1978), he gained a co-producer credit.


On April 6, 1979, Tokar died of a heart attack in his sleep at his studio apartment in Hollywood, California.


Year Title
1962 Big Red
1963 Savage Sam
1964 A Tiger Walks
1965 Those Calloways
1966 The Ugly Dachshund
1966 Follow Me, Boys!
1967 The Happiest Millionaire
1968 The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit
1969 Rascal
1970 The Boatniks
1972 Snowball Express
1974 Where the Red Fern Grows
1975 The Apple Dumpling Gang
1976 No Deposit, No Return
1977 Candleshoe
1978 The Cat from Outer Space


  1. ^ Hal Erickson. "Norman Tokar". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on 2013-02-16.
  2. ^ Ted Johnson; Sarah M. Brown (September 7, 1989). "Belmont Shore Video Store a Movie Family's Affair". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ "Norman Tokar". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on February 6, 2020. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  4. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.

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