OBITUARY : Tommy Rettig

Tommy Rettig was a fresh-faced, cheerful and clean-cut kid who found solace in drugs when adulthood destroyed his celebrity status.

He began his career at the age of six, as Annie Oakley's kid brother in Annie Get Your Gun. In 1950 Elia Kazan cast him as the son of Richard Widmark and Barbara Bel Geddes in Panic in the Streets; 20th Century-Fox signed him to a contract. He was put into The Jackpot, in which he and Natalie Wood had James Stewart and Barbara Hale for parents.

Movies were awash with youngsters, and the industry had realised that the public preferred the natural to the cute. When Fox wasn't using Rettig he was loaned out - for instance, to Universal to play Patricia Neale's offspring in Weekend with Father (1951) and to Warner Bros to be Jane Wyman's son in So Big (1953).

His most important role was in the bizarre The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T (1953), as a boy forced to stay indoors to practise piano; he imagines himself into a horrific new land lorded over by Dr Terwilliker (Hans Conreid), whose fortress contains 500 boys playing scales and, in the dungeons, moulding creatures who had dared play other instruments. His best remembered movie role is as Robert Mitchum's son in River of No Return (1954), fording the rapids with Marilyn Monroe.

In his six years in pictures Rettig had leading roles in 14 films. In 1954 he began a weekly television series with Lassie. He played Jeff Miller, the collie's master, till 1958. When show-business lost interest he tried various jobs, including photography and selling tools.

He and his wife moved to a California farm, where he cultivated marijuana; he was sentenced to two years' probation in 1972, but in 1975 was ordered to serve five years for running cocaine. That was dropped on appeal, but he was indicted again in 1980 for drug offences. Later he was a computer programmer and drug-counsellor.

David Shipman

Thomas Noel Rettig, actor: born Jackson Heights, New York 10 December 1941; died Marina del Rey 15 February 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect