Sammee Tong

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Sammee Tong
Tong in a publicity photo for Bachelor Father (1957–1962)
Born(1901-04-21)April 21, 1901
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 27, 1964(1964-10-27) (aged 63)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other namesSammy Tong
Years active1934–1964

Sammee Tong (April 21, 1901 – October 27, 1964) was an American film and television character actor. One of Tong's more notable roles was that of Peter Tong on the sitcom Bachelor Father, which aired on all three national networks from 1957 to 1962.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in San Francisco, Tong lived in Palo Alto before moving with his family to Honolulu. He graduated from Stanford University.[1][2]

Tong attempted to break into acting on the stage during the Depression, forming an act called the Three Celestials that played in neighborhood theaters and was booked into the Los Angeles Orpheum.[2] He found he could not secure acting roles because of his ethnicity. He worked in Chinese nightclubs in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where he sang and performed comedy routines. During his nightclub years, he changed the spelling of his name to "Sammee" because he said it "looked better in print".[3][4]


Tong signed with Columbia Pictures,[2] and in 1934, he made his film debut in a bit part in the comedy film The Captain Hates the Sea. In 1939 he returned to his home town as director of entertainment at the Chinese Village of San Francisco's World's Fair, and began the first Chinese radio hour on KSAN.[2] Throughout the 1940s, he had small, usually uncredited, roles in films. He returned to Hollywood in the early 1950s and took roles on television.[2]

Tong made his television debut in 1953 in an episode of You Are There. The following year, he appeared in a recurring role as "George, the cook" in a series of television shorts which aired during The Mickey Mouse Club entitled The Adventures of Spin and Marty. In 1955, he reprised his role as George in the feature-length film Spin and Marty: The Movie. He also had a role in the sequel series The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty.

In 1957, he landed a co-starring role in the sitcom Bachelor Father, starring John Forsythe and Noreen Corcoran. In the series, Tong portrayed "Peter Tong,” Bentley Gregg's (Forsythe) live-in houseboy and valet. Although he was playing a servant, Tong enjoyed the role stating, "Houseboys in movies and the theater always bow low, mutter a few sing song words and disappear, but not on this show. I get dialogue and laughs."[3][dead link] In his Bachelor Father role, Tong was not subservient and at one point walked out because he was not paid enough. He spoke with an accent even though the actor was born in the United States.[5]

After Bachelor Father's cancellation in 1962, Tong was cast as Sammy Ling in the ABC sitcom Mickey, starring Mickey Rooney. Due to low ratings, ABC was considering canceling Mickey. The network was hesitant to cancel the series due to the popularity of Tong's character who had a solid fanbase thanks to Tong's role in Bachelor Father. Tong's death effectively ended any chance for the series' survival and ABC canceled Mickey in December 1964.[6][7]

Tong's final screen appearance was as "Cook" in the 1965 film Fluffy, starring Tony Randall and Shirley Jones. The film was released after Tong's death.


Tong, who lived alone and never married or had children, was found dead in his Palms, Los Angeles apartment by his close friend, Ben Wong, on October 27, 1964. Tong had died from an intentional barbiturate overdose.[8][9] Police found an empty bottle of sleeping pills by his body and several notes addressed to his landlady, his attorney and police. In the note addressed to police, he gave no reason why he committed suicide only stating, "I have taken my own life. No one is to blame."[10] Tong is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[11]

In his 1991 autobiography, Life is Too Short, Tong's co-star Mickey Rooney claimed that Tong was a heavy gambler and committed suicide over money problems. According to Rooney, Tong became despondent and upset after learning that Mickey faced cancellation because he owed money to the mafia.[6]


Year Title Role Notes
1934 The Captain Hates the Sea Sin Kee Uncredited
1935 Charlie Chan in Shanghai Waiter Uncredited
1936 Love Before Breakfast Steward Uncredited
1936 The Accusing Finger Chinese Man Uncredited
1936 Happy Go Lucky Driver Uncredited
1936 Stowaway Bing Crosby Imitator Uncredited
1937 The Good Earth Chinese Man Uncredited
1937 Think Fast, Mr. Moto Cheela - Marloff's Houseboy Uncredited
1937 Youth on Parole Chinese Orchestra Leader Uncredited
1937 West of Shanghai Messenger Uncredited
1937 Daughter of Shanghai Chinese Alien in Airplane Uncredited
1939 Only Angels Have Wings Sam the Cook Uncredited
1943 China Aide to Japanese General Uncredited
1945 God Is My Co-Pilot Chinese Civilian Uncredited
1945 Out of This World Chinese Radio Announcer Uncredited
1950 Woman on the Run Witness to Suzie's Fall Uncredited
1955 The Left Hand of God Servant Uncredited
1955 Spin and Marty: The Movie George
1956 Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Dr. Yamane Voice, Uncredited
1956 Flight to Hong Kong Shop Proprietor Uncredited
1957 The Iron Sheriff Charley Key - Laundry Owner Uncredited
1957 The Midnight Story Restaurant Proprietor Uncredited
1957 Man of a Thousand Faces Chinese Extra Uncredited
1957 Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Sam, Chinese Waiter Uncredited
1957 Hell Bound Murdered Seaman Uncredited
1957 Stopover Tokyo Diplomat Uncredited
1958 Suicide Battalion Papa Lily Credited as Sammy Tong
1959 Battle Flame Chinese Prisoner Uncredited
1963 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Chinese Laundryman
1964 For Those Who Think Young Clyde
1965 Fluffy Cook Released posthumously, (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1953–1954 You Are There 2 episodes
1955 The Adventures of Spin and Marty George, the cook Unknown episodes
1956 Judge Roy Bean Ah Sid Episode: "Ah Sid, Cowboy"
1956 The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty Sam Unknown episodes
1956 Matinee Theater Nurseryman Episode: "All the Trees In the Field"
1956 Sky King Ipp Episode: "Red Tentacles"
1956 The Man Called X 2 episodes
1956 Death Valley Days Thomas Bottle Episode: "Bill Bottle's Birthday"
1956 Cavalcade of America Episode: "Diplomatic Outpost"
1956 My Friend Flicka Wong Episode: "Lost River"
1956 Hey, Jeannie! Lee Episode: "The Proprietor"
1957 General Electric Theater Peter Tong Episode: "A New Girl In His Life"
1959 The Californians Quon Wei Episode: "Gold-Tooth Charlie"
1959 Bonanza Hop Ling Episode: "A Rose for Lotta"
1960 Hawaiian Eye Mr. Nishimaka Episode: "Dead Ringer"
1957–1962 Bachelor Father Peter Tong 157 episodes
1964 The Jack Benny Program Maitre d' of Lotus Blosom Inn Episode: "How Jack Found Dennis"
1964–1965 Mickey Sammy Ling 17 episodes


  1. ^ "Veteran Actor Sammee Tong Found Dead". The Miami News. October 27, 1964. p. 5B. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Chinese Actor Finds Difficulty Playing In Chinese on TeeVee". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. October 26, 1959. p. 16. Retrieved August 8, 2017 – via
  3. ^ a b Witbeck, Charles (July 9, 1959). "Star John Forsythe Is Just Sammee Tong's Straight Man". The Modesto Bee. Retrieved December 26, 2012.[dead link]
  4. ^ "Veteran Chinese Entertainer Found Dead; Note Revealed". Eugene Register-Guard. October 28, 1964. p. 8A. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
  5. ^ Aoki, Guy (July 10, 2014). "INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Rediscovering Sammee Tong in 'Bachelor Father'". The Rafu Shimpo. Retrieved August 8, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Rooney, Mickey (1991). Life Is Too Short. Villard Books. p. 266. ISBN 9780679402879.
  7. ^ Green, Paul (2015). Pete Duel: A Biography, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 41. ISBN 9781476621098.
  8. ^ "Sammee Tong, Veteran Character Actor, Found Dead in Apartment". Los Angeles Times. October 28, 1964. p. A1.
  9. ^ "Samee Tong Found Dead". Reading Eagle. October 28, 1964.
  10. ^ "Actor Tong Commits Suicide". The Owosso Argus-Press. October 27, 1964. p. 20. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
  11. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 73. ISBN 0-786-40983-5.

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