Thomas Edward Rall
December 27, 1929
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||October 6, 2020 (aged 90)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Monte Amundsen (1959–?)|
Karel J. Shimoff (1967–2020)
Thomas Edward Rall (December 27, 1929 – October 6, 2020) was an American actor, ballet dancer, tap dancer and acrobatic dancer who was a prominent featured player in 1950s musical comedies. He later became a successful operatic tenor in the 1960s, making appearances with the Opera Company of Boston, the New York City Opera, and the American National Opera Company.
Life and career
Rall was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Seattle. As a child he had a crossed eye which made it hard for him to read books, so his mother enrolled him in dancing classes. In his early years he performed a dance and acrobatic vaudeville act in Seattle theaters and attempted small acting roles.
His family moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s, and Rall began to appear in small movie roles. His first film appearance was a short MGM film called Vendetta. He began taking tap dancing lessons and became a member of the jitterbugging Jivin' Jacks and Jills at Universal Studios.
Rall joined Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan and Shirley Mills in several light wartime Andrews Sisters vehicles including Give Out, Sisters (1942) Get Hep to Love (1942) Mister Big, and others. He appeared in the films The North Star and Song of Russia (1944).
Rall took ballet lessons and danced in classical and Broadway shows, including Milk and Honey, Call Me Madam and Cry for Us All. Jerry Herman said of Rall in Milk and Honey: "[Donald] [Saddler] did extraordinary choreography for Tommy Rall, who was suddenly so admired by the audience that [the producer] put his name on the marquee under the three stars. It was very, very earned by him. He was a terrific singer and dancer."
He is best known for his acrobatic dancing in several classic musical films of the 1950s, including Kiss Me, Kate as "Bill" (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as "Frank" (1954), Invitation to the Dance (1956), Merry Andrew as "Giacomo Gallini" (1958), and My Sister Eileen as "Chick" (1955).
Rall's film career waned as movie musicals went into decline. He had a role in the movie Funny Girl, as "The Prince" in a parody of the ballet Swan Lake. On Broadway he danced to acclaim as "Johnny" in Marc Blitzstein and Joseph Stein's 1959 musical Juno (based on Seán O'Casey's play Juno and the Paycock). Ken Mandelbaum wrote: "DeMille provided two fine ballets: her second act 'Johnny' in which Tommy Rall danced out Johnny's emotions...was the evening's highlight."
Rall was highly respected by his contemporaries—including dance greats Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor—with the latter describing Rall as one of the “greatest dancers living...above Astaire and Kelly.”
In 2007, a dance instructor by the name of Fredric Brame was found to have been posing as Tommy Rall since the late 1960s. His biographies, resumes, and playbills all support that Brame was Fredric Brame aka Tommy Rall by the credits listed. When Rall found out about the masquerade decades later, through a friend of the family, Rall contacted the Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff's office. No legal action was taken against Brame since he technically did not commit a crime. Rall only wanted Brame to stop taking credit for his work and if he continued or did it again a lawsuit would be filed.
In September 2020, Rall had heart surgery and recovered at the Fireside Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Subsequently, in October, he had additional heart surgery at Providence Saint John's Health Center, also in Santa Monica. He died around 5 P.M. on October 6 of congestive heart failure.
- What's Cookin'? (1942) as Member, The Jivin' Jacks and Jills (uncredited)
- Private Buckaroo (1942) as Member of the Jivin' Jacks and Jills (uncredited)
- Give Out, Sisters (1942) as Member of the Jivin' Jacks and Jills
- Get Hep to Love (1942) as Member - Jivin' Jacks (uncredited)
- It Comes Up Love (1943) as Stag (uncredited)
- Mister Big (1943) as 'Jivin' Jacks and Jills' Member (uncredited)
- Always a Bridesmaid (1943) as Member of The Jivin' Jacks and Jills (uncredited)
- The North Star (1943) as Dancing Peasant (uncredited)
- Song of Russia (1944) as Dancing Peasant (uncredited)
- Ziegfeld Follies (1945) as Chorus Boy (uncredited)
- Kiss Me Kate (1953) as Bill Calhoun 'Lucentio'
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) as Frank (Frankincense) Pontipee
- My Sister Eileen (1955) as Chick
- The Second Greatest Sex (1955) as Alf Connors
- World in My Corner (1956) as Ray Kacsmerek
- Invitation to the Dance (1956) as The Sharpie in 'Ring Around the Rosy'
- Walk the Proud Land (1956) as Taglito
- Merry Andrew (1958) as Giacomo Gallini
- Funny Girl (1968) as Prince in 'Swan Lake' Parody (uncredited)
- Pennies from Heaven (1981) as Ed
- Dancers (1987) as Patrick
- Saturday the 14th Strikes Back (1988) as The Werewolf (final film role)
- Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age (2018, Documentary) as Himself
- Vendetta (1942) as Bit Part (uncredited)
- Trumpet Serenade (1942) as Himself - Member, 'The Jivin' Jacks and Jills'
Stage work, Broadway
- American Concertette (1945)
- Ballet Theatre (1946)
- Look Ma, I'm Dancin'! (as Tommy) (1948)
- Small Wonder (1948)
- Miss Liberty (as The Boy, The Dandy, Another Lamplighter) (1949)
- Call Me Madam (Principal Dancer) (1950) (also understudy for Russell Nype)
- Juno (as Johnny Boyle) (1959)
- Milk and Honey (as David) (1961)
- Cafe Crown (as David Cole) (1964)
- Cry for Us All (as Petey Boyle) (1970)
- "Tommy Rall" .masterworksbroadway.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- "Full Biography: Tommy Rall". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- Give Out, Sisters tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Get Hep to Love tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Song of Russia tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Jones, Kenneth. "'Like a Young Man': Jerry Herman Talks About 'Milk and Honey'" Playbill, October 17, 2011
- Kiss Me Kate tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Invitation to the Dance tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Merry Andrew tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- My Sister Eileen tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Funny Girl American Film Institute, accedded December 25, 2016
- Mandelbaum, Ken. Juno Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops, Macmillan, 1992, ISBN 0312082738, p. 312
- William Allin Storrer. Report from Boston. Opera July 1961, Vol.12, No.7, p450.
- Aloff, Mindy. "Remembering a Hoofer. An Interview with Donald O'Connor, 1979" Dance View Times, 2003, accessed December 24, 2016
- Lee, Renee. "Dance Teacher: decades of lies weren't my fault." Houston Chronicle 24Jun2007. n. pag. Weborn 15 October 2011.
- "Tommy Rall Overview" tcm.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- "Tommy Rall Broadway" ibdb.com, accessed December 24, 2016
- Koegler, Horst (1998). "Rall, Tommy", Dizionario della danza e del balletto, p. 392. Gremese Editore. ISBN 88-7742-262-9. (in Italian)
- Mordden, Ethan (2002). Open a new window: the Broadway musical in the 1960s. Palgrave Macmillan, p. 102. ISBN 1-4039-6013-5