Tommy Hanlon Jr.

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Tommy Hanlon Jr.
Born Tommy Gene Thomason
(1923-08-14)14 August 1923
Parkersburg, West Virginia, United States
Died 9 October 2003(2003-10-09) (aged 80)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Occupation TV Host,
Circus ringmaster
Years active 1927–2001
Spouse(s) Jean Gregory,
Children Tommy Hanlon Thomason, April Thomason
Parent(s) Homer Emmons Thomason, Ruth Dorothy Manning

Tommy Hanlon Jr. (14 August 1923 – 9 October 2003) was an American-born actor, comedian, TV host and later circus ringmaster, notable for his career in Australia after emigrating there in 1959, where he became a Gold Logie-award-winning media personality, notable for his early television appearances on daytime television and as host of the Australian version of game show It Could Be You

Professional career[edit]

He was born Tommy Gene Thomason in Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1923 to vaudeville performers Homer Emmons Thomason (whose stage name was Tommy Hanlon) and Ruth Dorothy Manning. He appeared in his parents' act at the age of four. He later took the stage name Tommy Hanlon Jr. after his father's stage name.

Hanlon first appeared on his own as a magician as a teenager and was an entertainer for the rest of his life. After two years with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in Los Angeles in the 1940s, and appearing on stage alongside W.C. Fields, he came to Australia in 1959, first as a club act, then appearing on television.[1]

Hanlon became a major TV celebrity in Australia in the early 1960s, especially as host of the popular daytime program It Could Be You on the Nine Network, operating out of the GTV-9 studios in Melbourne. The program was a mixture of game show, human interest and humour. It featured tearful reunions of long separated families or friends. He typically closed each program sitting on a stool with a social commentary presented as a Letter from Mom.

After GTV-9 purchased radio station 3AK in April 1961, all GTV-9 personalities were expected to present programs on the new acquisition. Hanlon hosted a Saturday morning show with Jack Little as his sidekick.

He won two Logie awards, including the Gold Logie in 1962, opposite Australian entertainer (Lorrae Desmond) and became one of the highest-paid entertainers in Australia.[2][3]

Circus career[edit]

In 1967 he bought into Ashton's Circus.[4] In the 1970s he hosted talent show Pot of Gold, with resident judge Bernard King who mocked most entrants mercilessly, to the consternation of the more kind-hearted Hanlon.

Hanlon quit television in 1978 and toured Australia as ringmaster of Silvers Circus until 2001. He was honoured in an episode of This is Your Life filmed in August 2003.

Personal life[edit]

Hanlon died from cancer in Melbourne on 9 October 2003, only weeks after suffering a heart attack He was predeceased by his wife, Muriel (who he always called Murphy), and survived by his daughter April Bell from that marriage and her son Jeff Almond. He was also survived by his first wife, Jean Gregory; his son by that marriage, Tommy Hanlon Thomason; three grandchildren by and two great-grand children.


Despite his love for Australia, he never relinquished his United States citizenship.


External links[edit]