Terry Kilburn

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Terry Kilburn
Publicity photo circa 1938
Terence E. Kilburn[1]

(1926-11-25) 25 November 1926 (age 97)
West Ham, Essex, England[2]
Years active1934–1969
Partner(s)Charles Nolte
(1957–2010, his death)[3]

Terence E. Kilburn[1] (born 25 November 1926), known for his acting work prior to 1953 as Terry Kilburn, is an English-American actor. Born in London, he moved to Hollywood in the U.S. at the age of 10, and is best known for his roles as a child actor during the Golden Age of Hollywood, in films such as A Christmas Carol (1938) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) in the late 1930s and the early 1940s.

Early life[edit]

Kilburn was born in 1926 in West Ham, Essex, in Greater London[2] to working-class parents Tom and Alice Kilburn.[4][5]

He did some unpaid acting as a young child, and an agent encouraged him to go to Hollywood. Kilburn and his mother immigrated to the U.S. in 1937, and his father arrived the following year.[5] A talent scout for MGM discovered him rehearsing for Eddie Cantor's radio show, and he was cast in the British-set film Lord Jeff (1938).[6]


Kilburn as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol (1938)

Hollywood and Broadway[edit]

Known for his innocent, dreamy, doe-eyed look, Kilburn achieved fame at the age of 11 portraying Tiny Tim in the 1938 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film version of A Christmas Carol, and also as four generations of the Colley family in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939).

As a child actor, he also played leading roles in two films which starred Freddie Bartholomew: Lord Jeff (1938) and Swiss Family Robinson (1940). He was featured in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) with Basil Rathbone. In addition to Lord Jeff (1938), Kilburn worked alongside Mickey Rooney in Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (1939), A Yank at Eton (1942), and National Velvet (1944).

In 1946 he was Joe, the horse's groom, in Black Beauty. In his early 20s, in 1947 and 1948, he was in four back-to-back Bulldog Drummond films, as Seymour, a reporter; and in 1950 he had small roles in two seagoing films.

After high school, Kilburn concentrated on stage work, and studied drama at UCLA.[7] He made his Broadway debut, credited as Terrance Kilburn, portraying Eugene Marchbanks in a 1952 revival of George Bernard Shaw's Candida.[7][8][9] He thereafter remained committed to live performances, as both actor and director.[7]

After 1952, he was credited on screen as Terence Kilburn. His final feature film role was a small part in Lolita (1962). Between 1951 and 1969, he was also in nearly a dozen teleplays, television movies, and television series episodes.

After Hollywood[edit]

From 1970 to 1994, Kilburn was artistic director of Oakland University's Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, Michigan.[10][11] Meadow Brook Theatre is Michigan's only LORT theatre. It presents classic plays, comedies, and musicals, and is known for its annual production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, adapted by Kilburn's partner, Charles Nolte.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Since 1994 Kilburn has resided in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[5][13] His partner of over 50 years, actor Charles Nolte, died in January 2010.[14]


Year Title Role Notes
1934 No Greater Glory Paul Street Boy Film debut
1938 Lord Jeff Albert Baker
A Christmas Carol Tiny Tim
Sweethearts Brother
1939 The Great Man Votes Student
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  • John Colley
  • Peter Colley I, II, and III
Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever 'Stickin' Plaster
They Shall Have Music Limey
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Billy
1940 Swiss Family Robinson Ernest Robinson
1941 Mercy Island Wiccy
1942 A Yank at Eton Hilspeth Uncredited
1944 National Velvet Ted
1946 Black Beauty Joe
1947 Song of Scheherazade Midshipman Lorin
Bulldog Drummond at Bay Seymour
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back Seymour
1948 The Challenge Seymour
13 Lead Soldiers Seymour
1950 Tyrant of the Sea Dick Savage
Fortunes of Captain Blood Kenny Jensen
1951 Hill Number One: A Story of Faith and Inspiration Stephen Teleplay, Family Theatre
Only the Valiant Trooper Saxton
1953 Slater's Dream Samuel Slater Teleplay, Cavalcade of America
Slaves of Babylon King Cyrus
1954 King Richard II Harry Percy TV movie
Night Must Fall Dan Ponds Theater
You Touched Me! Kraft Theatre
1956 The Honor Code Cadet Eddie Garley Teleplay, West Point
Miss Mabel Peter Lux Video Theatre
1957 The New Adventures of Martin Kane Bill Wright TV series, episode "The Railroad Story"
The Long Christmas Dinner Sam TV adaptation of play
1958 Fiend Without a Face Capt. Al Chester
The New Adventures of Charlie Chan Col. Arthur Ross TV series, episode "Safe Deposit"
1962 Lolita Man Final film
1969 Get Smart Shirtsinger TV series, episode "Hurray for Hollywood"


  1. ^ a b Theatre Profiles. Theatre Communications Group, 1977. p. 171. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b Terence E Kilburn, Birth Registration, 1927. England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1927, Volume 4A, page 93, line 28. (Retrieved 26 November 2017).
  3. ^ Biodata, lavendermagazine.com. Accessed 9 May 2022.
  4. ^ Foster, Jim (December 2017). "Terry Kilburn". Classic Images (510): 14–15, 66–76.
  5. ^ a b c Meet Minnesota's Terry Kilburn: Hollywood's 1st Tiny Tim. WCCO-TV. 13 December 2016.
  6. ^ Boatner, E.B. (12 December 2013). "He Spun the Globe-It Stopped at Hollywood". Lavender. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b c "Terry Kilburn". AllMovie. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Candida, National Theatre, (4/22/1952 - 5/17/1952)". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Terrance Kilburn". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  10. ^ Jones, Kenneth (5 June 2003). "After 36 years, Michigan's LORT Meadow Brook Theatre Closes; New Group Emerges". Playbill. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012.
  11. ^ Jones, Kenneth (25 March 1999). "MI's Meadow Brook Theatre Will Lose Artistic Director Sherman in June". Playbill. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011.
  12. ^ Calamia, Donald V. (7 December 2006). "Happy holidays: A classic returns to Meadow Brook Theatre". Between the Lines. No. 1449. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  13. ^ "Meet Minnesota's Terry Kilburn: Hollywood's 1st Tiny Tim". CBS News Minnesota. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  14. ^ Preston, Rohan (15 January 2010). "Actor, director, mentor Charles Nolte dies". Star Tribune. Minneapolis. Archived from the original on 19 January 2010.

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