Tufts ca. 1955
|Born||Bowen Charlton Tufts III
July 16, 1911
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||June 4, 1970
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Pneumonia|
|Resting place||Munroe Cemetery|
|Education||Phillips Exeter Academy|
|Alma mater||Yale University|
|Occupation||Actor, opera singer|
|Spouse(s)||Barbara Dare (m. 1938; div. 1953)|
|Relatives||Charles Tufts (great uncle)|
Bowen Charlton "Sonny" Tufts III (July 16, 1911 – June 4, 1970) was an American stage, film and television actor and opera singer.
Early life and family
Bowen Charlton Tufts III (some sources give "Charleston") (nicknamed "Sonny") was born in Boston, Massachusetts into a prominent banking family. The Tufts family patriarch, Peter Tufts, sailed to America from Wilby, Norfolk, England in 1638. His great uncle was businessman and philanthropist Charles Tufts, for whom Tufts University is named.
Tufts attended the Phillips Exeter Academy and later broke with the family banking tradition by studying opera at Yale University, where he was an editor of campus humor magazine The Yale Record. He was also a member of the Skull and Bones society and played for the Yale football team. Tufts also performed in a musical group, the Whiffenpoofs, and toured with the group in Europe. While touring in Naples, Tufts decided to study opera. He studied opera in Paris for a year and in the United States for three.
After graduating from Yale in 1935, Tufts auditioned with the Metropolitan Opera in New York but eventually worked on the Broadway stage. He appeared in the stage show Who's Who and Sing for Your Supper. Tufts then began singing in hotels and nightclubs. A Yale classmate of Tufts' later convinced him to move to Hollywood to begin a career as an actor. Upon arriving in Hollywood, Tufts' friend, hotel manager Jack Donnelly, accompanied Tufts to Paramount Pictures and introduced him to a casting director Joe Egli. Egli shot a screen test with Tufts who was then signed to Paramount. His first role was as Kansas, an affable Marine and love interest of Paulette Goddard in the 1943 World War II romantic drama So Proudly We Hail!. The film was a critical and box office hit, largely due to the three female leads: Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake. Tufts' performance was praised by critics and the role served as a launching pad for Tufts' career. After the release of the film, Tufts received 1700 fan letters a week and was named "The Find of 1943." The following year, Tufts was cast opposite Olivia de Havilland in the comedy Government Girl. That same year, he was voted the number one "Star of Tomorrow" by exhibitors.
Before filming of So Proudly We Hail! was complete, director Mark Sandrich commissioned So Proudly's screenwriter Allan Scott to write a vehicle for Tufts and his co-star Paulette Goddard. That film, entitled I Love a Soldier, was released in 1945. During World War II, Tufts' popularity continued to rise principally because, due to an old college football injury, he was one of the few male actors not serving overseas in the war. By the early 1950s, Tufts' popularity began to wane and his career began to decline. In 1953, Tufts was cast opposite Barbara Payton in the low budget comedy film Run for the Hills. Later that year, he co-starred in another low budget film, Cat-Women of the Moon. Tufts' career briefly rebounded when he was cast in a small role in the comedy The Seven Year Itch, starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe. In 1956, Tufts had a supporting role in drama Come Next Spring for Republic Pictures.
Tuft's career decline was compounded by his alcoholism and his off-screen antics. In February 1954, a 19-year-old dancer named Margarie Von accused Tufts of biting her on the right thigh while she was relaxing aboard a yacht docked off the coast of Balboa Peninsula, Newport Beach. Von sued Tuft for $26,000 claiming the bite left a three-inch scar. Von later settled for $600. In March 1954, a stripper named Barbara Gray Atkins sued Tufts for $25,000 in damages after she claimed he bit her left thigh while he and two friends were visiting her home. Atkins later dropped the lawsuit against Tufts.
After filming The Parson and the Outlaw in 1957, Tufts retreated to a ranch in Texas. He returned to acting in 1963 with a guest appearance on The Virginian. His final onscreen role was in the 1968 television movie Land's End.
In 1938, Tufts married Spanish dancer Barbara Dare. They separated in 1949 and Dare filed for divorce in 1951 citing Tufts' excessive drinking as the reason for the breakup of their marriage. Dare was granted an interlocutory divorce on October 21, 1951 which was finalized the following year.
On June 4, 1970, Tufts died of pneumonia at age 58 at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California. Tufts' private funeral was held on June 7 in Beverly Hills after which he was buried in Munroe Cemetery in Lexington, Massachusetts.
In popular culture
In a non sequitur on the cartoon show Rocky and His Friends, in the Jet Fuel Formula story arc, Bullwinkle J. Moose becomes very upset when Boris Badenov steals his autographed picture of Sonny Tufts. Tufts is mentioned in the last sentence of the third sketch of the 48th show of the second season of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, was first aired on May 13, 1961.
In an episode of My Mother the Car titled "And Leave The Drive-In To Us," Mother wants to go to a drive-in to see Sonny Tufts for her birthday. Tufts himself makes an appearance at the very end of the episode, much to Mother's appreciation, and causing her radiator cap to pop!
In the November 26, 1966 episode of The Monkees, "I've Got a Little Song Here", Micky Dolenz, posing as a Hollywood studio head, says he's making a blockbuster movie, starring, "... Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, and Sonny Tufts." To which the other person exclaims incredulously, "Sonny T---?? What a production!".
Tufts is the subject of an urban legend, that he had been selected to host a well-known radio show as a last-minute replacement for a better known celebrity. The week before Tufts's episode was scheduled, the previous host introduced him with a combination of surprise and outrage, shocked that a relatively unknown actor would succeed him as host. There is no evidence, however, that such an incident occurred. Tufts himself parodied this legend in frequent appearances on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: seated in a director's chair with his name printed on it, he would turn around to face the camera and utter a word or phrase relevant to the previous bit, in mock contempt.
|1943||So Proudly We Hail!||Kansas|
|1944||Government Girl||E.H. 'Ed' Browne|
|1944||I Love a Soldier||Dan Kilgore|
|1944||Here Come the Waves||Windy "Pinetop" Windhurst|
|1945||Bring on the Girls||Phil North|
|1945||Duffy's Tavern||Sonny Tufts||Cameo role|
|1945||Miss Susie Slagle's||Pug Prentiss|
|1946||The Virginian||Steve Andrews|
|1946||The Well-Groomed Bride||Lt. Torchy McNeil|
|1946||Swell Guy||Jim Duncan|
|1946||Cross My Heart||Oliver Clarke|
|1947||Easy Come, Easy Go||Kevin O'Connor|
|1947||Blaze of Noon||Roland McDonald|
|1947||Variety Girl||Sonny Tufts|
|1948||The Untamed Breed||Tom Kilpatrick|
|1949||The Crooked Way||Vince Alexander|
|1949||Easy Living||Tim "Pappy" McCarr|
|1953||Glory at Sea||Ordinary Seaman 'Yank' Flanagan||Alternative title: Gift Horse|
|1953||Run for the Hills||Charlie Johnson|
|1953||No Escape||Det. Simon Shayne||Alternative title: City on a Hunt|
|1953||Cat-Women of the Moon||Laird Grainger|
|1954||Serpent Island||Pete Mason|
|1955||The Seven Year Itch||Tom MacKenzie|
|1956||Come Next Spring||Leroy Hightower|
|1957||The Parson and the Outlaw||Jack Slade||Alternative titles: The Killer and 21 Men
Return of the Outlaw
|1967||Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers||Cousin Urie|
|1955||Damon Runyon Theater||Sam||Episode: "A Tale of Two Citizens"|
|1963||The Virginian||Frank Trampas||Episode: "Ride a Dark Trail"|
|1964||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Monk||Episode: "Have Girls, Will Travel"|
|1965||The Loner||Barney Windom||Segment: "The Ordeal of Bud Windom"|
|1965||My Mother The Car||Himself||Episode: "And Leave The Drive-In to Us"|
|1968||Land's End||Hal||Television movie|
- "Sonny Tufts". Chicago Sunday Tribune. 12 January 1947. p. 14.
- Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 156.
- Lamparski, Richard (1968). Whatever Became Of--?: Second Series. Crown Publishers. p. 146.
- "Sonny Tufts, Boston And Yale Scion, Makes Good In Movies". Miami Daily News. July 7, 1943. p. 21.
- Graham, Sheliah. "Sonny Tufts, Boston and Yale Scion, Makes Good In Movies". The Miami News. pp. 7–C. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- Nixon, Rob. "So Proudly We Hail!". tcm.com. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- "Sonny Tufts Sets Hollywood Record". Lewiston Evening Journal. December 8, 1944. pp. A–5. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- "Saga of the High Seas". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). November 11, 1944. p. 9. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
- Thomas, Bob (November 28, 1979). "And Whatever Happened To Sonny Tufts Anyway?". Toledo Blade. p. P–2. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- "Dancer's Biting Claim Settled For $600". Reading Eagle. January 8, 1955. p. 8. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- "Tufts Puts "The Bite" On Stripper". The Miami News. March 31, 1954. p. 7–B. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- Lamparski 1968 p.147
- "Divorce Due For Actor". Eugene Register-Guard. September 17, 1952. p. 8–G. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- "Sonny Tufts, Noted Actor, Dead at 58". The Telegraph. June 6, 1970. p. 3. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- "Sonny Tufts' Rites". Lodi News-Sentinel. June 8, 1960. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- Sonny Tufts at the Internet Movie Database
- "Sonny Tufts?". snopes.com. March 16, 2010. Retrieved June 1, 2014.