Los Angeles: Tommy Kirk, the child actor who starred in Disney films like Old Yeller and The Shaggy Dog, has died. He was 79 years old.
Kirk’s longtime friend and former child star Paul Peterson said he was found dead Tuesday at his Las Vegas home. The cause of death has not been disclosed.
Peterson said that Kirk lived a private life as a gay man and that his blood was separated from the family’s remains.
Peterson said he was part of our Kid Star community. He made some great movies back in the day. We saw them and enjoyed. He was respected in his church. He lived a quiet, but fulfilling life.
Kirk began his career with several television shows, including the Mickey Mouse Club serial adventures The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure and The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Ghost Farm, which aired from 1956–1957. His big break came when he starred as Travis Coates in the 1957 film Old Yeller, the story of a teenage boy and his heroic yellow dog.
In The Shaggy Dog, Kirk portrayed a teenage boy who was sometimes cursed to turn into a lamb. He played the middle son alongside James MacArthur and Kevin Corcoran, who played their brothers in the 1960 film Swiss Family Reunion.
Kirk starred in several other films in the 1960s, including The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel Son of Flubber. She also starred in The Misadventures of Marilyn Jones.
In 1973, Kirk publicly came out as gay during an interview. The actor opened up 20 years later that he realized he was gay when he was 17 or 18 and that his career had been destroyed by his sexual orientation.
Kirk made a few appearances in the 1990s and 2000s in films such as Billy Frankenstein and The Education of a Vampire, his final film.
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