Sammee Tong

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Sammee Tong
Sammee Tong.jpg
Born (1901-04-21)April 21, 1901
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died October 27, 1964(1964-10-27) (aged 63)
Palms, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Barbiturate overdose
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Nationality American
Other names Sammy Tong
Occupation Actor
Years active 1934–1963

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.

In October 1964, Tong died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 63. At the time of his death, he was appearing in a supporting role on the ABC sitcom, Mickey, starring Mickey Rooney.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in San Francisco, Tong was educated in California and Honolulu.[1] Tong attempted to break into acting on the stage during the Depression, but found he could not get parts because he was of Chinese descent. He began working 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."[2][3]

In 1934, Tong made his film debut in a bit part in the comedy film The Captain Hates the Sea. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, he would continue with small, usually uncredited, roles in films. He found more success in the 1950s on television. 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.[2] 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 his role in Bachelor Father. Tong's death effectively ended any chance for the series' survival and ABC canceled Mickey in December 1964.[4]

His 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.

Death[edit]

On October 27, 1964, Tong was found dead in his Palms, Los Angeles apartment by his close friend, Ben Wong. Tong died of an apparent suicide by barbiturate overdose.[5][6] 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."[7] Tong is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[8]

In his 1991 autobiography Life Is Too Short, Tong's co-star Mickey Rooney wrote that Tong was upset by the news that Mickey faced cancellation. According to Rooney, Tong was a heavy gambler and owed money to the mafia. Faced with the possibility of not being able to pay off his debts, Rooney claimed that Tong decided to commit suicide.[4]

Filmography[edit]

Film
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, (Last appearance)
Television
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

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Veteran Actor Sammee Tong Found Dead". The Miami News. October 27, 1964. p. 5B. Retrieved December 26, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Witbeck, Charles (July 9, 1959). "Star John Forsythe Is Just Sammee Tong's Straight Man". The Modesto Bee. Retrieved December 26, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Veteran Chinese Entertainer Found Dead; Note Revealed". Eugene Register-Guard. October 28, 1964. p. 8A. Retrieved December 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Rooney, Mickey (1991). Life Is Too Short. Villard Books. p. 266. 
  5. ^ "Sammee Tong, Veteran Character Actor, Found Dead in Apartment". The Los Angeles Times. October 28, 1964. p. A1. 
  6. ^ "Samee Tong Found Dead". Reading Eagle. October 28, 1964. 
  7. ^ "Actor Tong Commits Suicide". The Owosso Argus-Press. October 27, 1964. p. 20. Retrieved December 26, 2012. 
  8. ^ 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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