How did Tommy Kirk die? Fans mourn 'Old Yeller' star's death at 79

Tommy Kirk lived alone in Las Vegas. He was gay and estranged from what remains of his blood-family


                            How did Tommy Kirk die? Fans mourn 'Old Yeller' star's death at 79
Tommy Kirk's most famous feat was starring as country kid Travis Coates alongside a heroic Labrador Retriever in the 1957 movie 'Old Yeller' (IMDb)

'Old Yeller' fame Disney child star, Tommy Kirk was found dead in his home on Tuesday, September 28, reports cited. He was 79 years old. Actor Paul Petersen first announced the news on Facebook. "My friend of many decades, Tommy Kirk, was found dead last night, " he wrote. No cause of death is known at the moment.

Petersen further wrote, "Tommy was intensely private. He lived alone in Las Vegas, close to his friend…and “Ol Yeller” co-star, Bev Washburn…and it was she who called me this morning. Please know that Tommy Kirk loved you, his fans. You lifted him up when an Industry let him down in 1965. He was not bitter. His church comforted him. May God have mercy on his soul." He also informed that Tommy "was gay and estranged from what remains of his blood-family". We have reported the demise of many actors in recent months including Toby Kirkup, Matthew Mindler, Trevor Moore, and Sean Lock to name a few. 

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Kirk first came into the limelight with his stint as the sleuth Joe Hardy in a pair of Hardy Boys TV serials, 'The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure' and 'The Mystery of the Ghost Farm'. He also played the middle son, Ernst, in the 1960 movie 'Swiss Family Robinson'. Kirk's most famous feat was starring as country kid Travis Coates alongside a heroic Labrador Retriever in the 1957 movie 'Old Yeller'. Kirk also had an unexpected hit with 'The Misadventures of Merlin Jones' (1964), during the filming of which, Kirk, then 21, started seeing a 15-year-old boy. Disney execs learned of the affair through the boy’s mother and Kirk was let go. 

"When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that [I was gay and] wasn’t going to change,” Kirk said in an interview for a 1993 article titled 'Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt’s Fallen Star' for Filmfax magazine. "I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career. Disney was a family film studio and I was supposed to be their young leading man. After they found out I was involved with someone, that was the end of Disney."

'RIP Tommy Kirk'

Fans remembered Kirk's iconic performances and paid tribute to the great actor. One person tweeted, "Remembering Tommy Kirk who has passed away. A top child star of the 1950s and 1960s, the industry was not kind to him when studios learned he was gay." Another wrote, "So sad to hear Tommy Kirk has passed, who was an indispensable part of so many films of my youth: OLD YELLER, THE SHAGGY DOG, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR and more. A great unsung actor. RIP" One tweet read, "RIP to the late Tommy Kirk Truly a Disney Legend. OLD YELLER, MERLIN JONES, SWISS FAMILY, ABSENT MINDED PROF, SHAGGY DOG. This one hurts."



 



 



 

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