A BRIGHT STAR SHINING ALL TOO BRIEFLY
Tommy Kelly’s death was reported in the New York Times in the middle of last month. He died at the end of January in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Tommy Kelly is outstanding in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, David O. Selznick’s 1938 color production. He is a gentler Tom than Mark Twain originally conceived, but he is a youthful charmer and just the right Tom for that era’s filmgoing public.
Kelly’s next and only other starring role, released the same year, was in Peck’s Bad Boy with the Circus in which — perfectly cast — he is excellent. Then in 1939 he actually played a mean kid in They Shall Have Music. And — it was 1939 — yes: Tommy Kelly is in Selznick’s Gone with the Wind. He is a member of the small band playing “Dixie” in the sequence which has Scarlett and Melanie and much of Atlanta awaiting casulaty lists from Gettysburg.
Over the years I watched for Kelly in his small roles: the kid brother in Irene; the kid brother (Deanna Durbin’s this time) in Nice Girl?; an Andy Hardy adjunct (Love Finds). Then, a young man now, he was an ugly-spirited hood in He Walked By Night and in 1950, he was one of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ secretaries in The Magnificent Yankee. In 1957 he appeared briefly in Silk Stockings.
Kelly spent most of life as a teacher and at one time held a supervisory educational position in the Peace Corps. According to Margaret Fox’s excellent obituary for the New York Times (2/14/16) Kelly, from the Bronx, underwent extensive speech and voice coaching before the shooting of Tom Sawyer. As a longtime Kelly follower, I found this a revelation and a surprise. There is not a trace of Bronx in his Tom. At age twelve, he was already a pro and was always a pro.
So long, Tommy Kelly, and thank you for everything
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FOR AKRONITES AND OTHER NORTHEASTERN OHIOANS: NEWS AND CAUSE FOR PRIDE
Nightlight Productions has a received a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the Knight Foundation for “Purchasing equipment that will allow the Nightlight to create broadcast-quality content, including Skype-based Q & A sessions with directors and filmmakers, pre-show content, promotional materials and more.” (My quote is from Kerry Clawson and Dorothy Shinn in the Akron Beacon Journal (3/15/16).) Thanks to them both and congratulations to Kurtiss Hare and his board and ensemble.
NEXT FRIDAY POST April 8