April 21, 1901|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Died||October 27, 1964
Palms, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Barbiturate overdose|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Other names||Sammy Tong|
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
Born in San Francisco, Tong was educated in California and Honolulu. 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."
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. 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.
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. 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." Tong is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
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.
|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|
|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)|
|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|
- "Veteran Actor Sammee Tong Found Dead". The Miami News. October 27, 1964. p. 5B. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Witbeck, Charles (July 9, 1959). "Star John Forsythe Is Just Sammee Tong's Straight Man". The Modesto Bee. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- "Veteran Chinese Entertainer Found Dead; Note Revealed". Eugene Register-Guard. October 28, 1964. p. 8A. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Rooney, Mickey (1991). Life Is Too Short. Villard Books. p. 266.
- "Sammee Tong, Veteran Character Actor, Found Dead in Apartment". The Los Angeles Times. October 28, 1964. p. A1.
- "Samee Tong Found Dead". Reading Eagle. October 28, 1964.
- "Actor Tong Commits Suicide". The Owosso Argus-Press. October 27, 1964. p. 20. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 73. ISBN 0-786-40983-5.