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Born in New York City, the tall, powerfully built Gilson played roles in TV western series such as Maverick, Lawman, "Tales of Wells Fargo", and Cheyenne, but perhaps his best-remembered part was in an episode of the classic sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, in which he played a variation on Elvis Presley named "Elvin Pelvin."
Gilson married Sandra Edwards in 1961 and they had a son, Tom Jr, but the marriage was stormy and ill-fated, and Edwards left Gilson and moved to her sister's house in Van Nuys, California. After apparent drunken behavior and death threats, Gilson broke into the house, and Edwards shot him dead, fearing for the safety of herself, her son from a previous marriage, and her baby son. Although a coroner's jury later judged the killing as justifiable homicide, Edwards' own career never recovered, and she never appeared in another film or TV program.
- Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen Sandra Edwards biography
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