Hamer and Sherry Jackson in 1955
|Born||Russell Craig Hamer
February 15, 1947
Tenafly, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||January 18, 1990
DeRidder, Louisiana, U.S.
|Cause of death||Self-inflicted gunshot wound|
Russell Craig "Rusty" Hamer (February 15, 1947 – January 18, 1990) was an American actor best known for his role as Rusty Williams in the popular ABC/CBS situation comedy The Danny Thomas Show (also known as Make Room for Daddy).
Born in Tenafly, New Jersey, Hamer won his first acting role at the age of 5. In 1953, 6-year old Hamer was cast as Rusty Williams, Danny Thomas's freckle-faced son on the sitcom Make Room for Daddy. Series star Danny Thomas later said of Hamer, "He was the best boy actor I ever saw in my life. He had a great memory...great timing and you could change a line on him at the last minute and he came right back with it." The series was a Top 10 hit throughout its eleven season run and garnered five Primetime Emmy Awards. Series star Danny Thomas chose to end the show in 1964 when Hamer was 17 years old.
After the series ended, Hamer attended public school but had difficulty adjusting as he was accustomed to attending school on the set. He occasionally appeared in bit parts on television shows, including a guest spot on Green Acres and appearances in two Make Room for Daddy reunion specials, but acting work became increasingly sporadic. Hamer became bitter and depressed over his waning career and began working for a messenger service in Los Angeles. Due to the success of the Make Room for Daddy reunion specials, a sequel series entitled Make Room for Grandaddy was added to the Fall 1970 ABC schedule. Hamer reprised the role of Rusty Williams in the series who was now a married medical student. The series premiered on September 24, 1970 but failed to catch on with audiences. It was canceled after one season.
In the 1970s, Hamer moved to southwestern Louisiana where he worked on an off-shore oil rig for Exxon, delivered newspapers and later worked as a short order cook in his brother's cafe. In 1976, he relocated to DeRidder, Louisiana to be closer to his ailing mother, Dorothy, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
On January 18, 1990, Hamer's older brother John found Hamer's body in his trailer home in DeRidder, Louisiana. Hamer had shot himself in the head with a .357 Magnum revolver. John Hamer later said he believed that his brother remained bitter over his inability to transition into acting as an adult. John Hamer also believed that his brother's chronic and debilitating back pain (for which he refused to seek medical attention) and their mother's illness had contributed to Hamer's depression. He stated:
"He hasn't really been happy since his early 20s. But he didn't show any signs of this happening. It was just all of the sudden. [...] He was a very unhappy, very confused young man. No one does something like that if he isn't confused. No one does something like that if he isn't confused. I've heard of a lot of child actors who have become unhappy with their lives after they've left the industry."
Hamer's body was cremated and no service was held.
Hamer's suicide raised awareness of the potential mental fragility of child performers and inspired fellow former child actor Paul Petersen, formerly of ABC's The Donna Reed Show, to establish the support group A Minor Consideration. The group seeks to improve working conditions for young actors and assists former child stars in making the transition from past fame to adult life.
|1953||Fort Ti||Jed's Nephew||Uncredited|
|1953 to 1964||Make Room for Daddy||Rusty Williams||323 episodes|
|1954||Four Star Playhouse||Dickie||Episode: "Vote of Confidence"|
|1954||Shower of Stars||Rusty||Episode: "Entertainment on Wheels"|
|1956||Dance with Me, Henry||Duffer|
|1958||The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour||Rusty Williams||Episode: "Lucy Makes Room for Danny"|
|1958||Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse||Rusty Williams||Episode: "Lucy Makes Room for Danny"|
|1958||The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford||Himself||Episode #3.13|
|1961||The Red Skelton Show||Guest drummer||Episode #10.12|
|1965||The Joey Bishop Show||Rusty Williams||3 episodes|
|1967||The Danny Thomas Hour||Rusty||Episode: "Make More Room for Daddy"|
|1969||Green Acres||Alfred||Episode: "Oliver's Schoolgirl Crush"|
|1970 to 1971||Make Room for Granddaddy||Rusty Williams||24 episodes|
- Mossman, Jennifer (2001). Almanac of Famous People: Biographies (7 ed.). Gale Research Co. p. 844. ISBN 0-7876-4793-4.
- "'Make Room for Daddy' actor, Rusty Hamer". Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine). January 19, 1990. p. 8. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Written at Los Angeles. "Former Child Actor, Hamer, Dies". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, Florida). January 20, 1990. p. 2A. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- "Danny Thomas Going Strong At 65". The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, Florida). December 14, 1979. pp. 5–B. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- "Danny Will Try Bold Experiment". Sarasota Journal (Sarasota, Florida). August 14, 1970. pp. 4–C. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- "'Make Room for Daddy' actor Rusty Hamer dies". The Prescott Courier (Prescott, Arizona). January 21, 1990. p. 3D. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Thomas, Bob (September 24, 1970). "Is There Room for Grandaddy?". The Nevada Daily Mail (Nevada, Missouri). p. 2. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Leszczak, Bob (2012). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979: A Complete Guide. McFarland. pp. 111–112. ISBN 0-786-49305-4.
- Largo, Michael (2007). The Portable Obituary: How the Famous, Rich, and Powerful Really Died. 0-061-23166-5. HarperCollins. p. 121.
- Kubey, Robert William (2004). Creating Television: Conversations With the People Behind 50 Years Of American TV. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 387. ISBN 0-8058-1077-3.
- Associated Press (January 20, 1990). "Rusty Hamer, Actor, 42". New York City, New York: nytimes.com. Retrieved December 17, 2007.
- "Rusty Hamer, 42, Actor". The Times-News (Hendersonville, North Carolina). January 20, 1990. p. 6. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- "Child television star dies in DeRidder". Minden Press-Herald (Minden, Louisiana). January 19, 1990. p. 7A.
- "Rusty Hamer". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- "In Ten Year's Time". minorcon.org. Retrieved 2009-10-03.