Marshall Thompson (November 27, 1925 – May 18, 1992) was an American film and television actor.
He was born James Marshall Thompson in Peoria, Illinois. In 1943 Thompson, known for his boy-next-door good looks, was signed by Universal Pictures. He played quiet, thoughtful teens in Universal’s feature films, including a lead opposite singing star Gloria Jean in Reckless Age, earning $350 weekly. During 1946 Universal discharged most of its contract players; that same year Thompson moved to MGM and his film roles steadily increased and improved.
Thompson became a freelance actor in the 1950s and worked for various studios on a variety of pictures, including a number of horror and science-fiction features; this included the role of Carruthers in It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), one of the two feature films that would later inspire the plot for director Ridley Scott’s 1979 big budget feature film Alien. Thompson also starred as counter-espionage agent Mel Hunter in the syndicated science-fiction TV series World of Giants, about a man who has been miniaturized and must live in a dollhouse.
By the 1960s, Thompson’s boyish looks had matured and his screen persona became more authoritative. He co-starred with Annie Fargé in the 33-episode CBS sitcom Angel (1960–1961) about an American architect with a charming but scatterbrained French wife, who often got into zany, Lucy Ricardo-esque situations, caused in part by her lack of English; the show was canceled after 33 episodes due to low ratings, despite critical acclaim for French-born newcomer Annie Fargé. In the mid-1960s Thompson starred in CBS’s Daktari, a television series about a veterinarian in Africa; the series was based on Thompson’s 1965 feature film Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion.
According to the official Marshall Thompson website maintained by Janet Thompson and Marianna D’Incau, Thompson developed a lifelong passion and love of Africa after filming East of Kilimanjaro in 1957. Thompson’s involvement in Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion extended far beyond acting; he collaborated on the script. To quote from the site, “Daktari was simply a gift for him to do. He was truly in his element. In 1966 he became a household favorite because of the series’ focus on family and animals. He worked closely with Ralph Helfer the owner of “Africa USA.” Helfer was a highly skilled animal trainer, and Thompson learned from him everything he could. All the animals used in the series and all the animals trained by Helfer were “love-schooled” from birth. To be a part of that set was a joy and an adventure every day.”
Thompson did all of his own stunts on the show, nearly losing his life when a cranky leopard bit his arm, drawing blood. He wisely remained calm, never moving his arm until the animal could be tranquilized. (source: the official Marshall Thompson website).
Thompson became very involved in all aspects of Daktari including the writing and directing. His love for Africa became a lifelong passion involving work with preservation.
Later in his career, he appeared in many television episodes and in feature films such as The Turning Point (1977) and The Formula (1980).
Thompson was a brother-in-law of actor Richard Long, best known for his role as Jarrod Barkley in ABC’s The Big Valley. Thompson’s wife, Barbara, was Long’s sister. Long and Thompson appeared together in the film Cult of the Cobra.
Marshall Thompson died in 1992 from congestive heart failure at the age of sixty-six in Royal Oak, Michigan. He was known as a decent, kindly and loving husband, father and friend.
There are many more fascinating facts on the official Marshall Thompson website.
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