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 Tommy Rettig

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Tommy Rettig

  • Original Name Thomas Noel
  • Birth 10 Dec 1941 Jackson Heights, Queens County, New York, USA
  • Death 15 Feb 1996 Marina del Rey, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea, Specifically: Ashes Scattered at Sea
  • Memorial ID 8329

Actor, Computer Engineer. He is best remembered for portraying the character 'Jeff Miller' in the first three seasons of CBS's "Lassie" television series that aired from 1954 to 1957, later seen in syndicated re-runs as "Jeff's Collie." Born Thomas Noel Rettig to a Jewish father and Christian Italian mother, he began his acting career at the age of six, on tour with actress Mary Martin in the play "Annie Get Your Gun," in which he played the role of 'Little Jake'. Prior to "Lassie" he appeared in nearly 20 films, most notably "So Big" (1953, with Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden), the musical fantasy "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" (1953, written by Dr. Seuss) "River of No Return" (1954, with Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum), "The Egyptian" (1954, with Edward Purdom, Michael Wilding, and Jean Simmons), and his last feature film "The Last Wagon" (1956, with Richard Widmark). His work with a dog in "The 5000 Fingers Of Dr. T" led animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax to urge him to audition for the "Lassie" role, for which Weatherwax supplied the famous collies. After four seasons he was able to get out of his contract and in October 1958 he made a television appearance in the ABC/Warner Brothers western series "Sugarfoot." After graduating from University High School in Los Angeles, California in 1959, he was cast as 'Pierre' in the 1959 episode "The Ghost of Lafitte", set in New Orleans, Louisiana of the ABC western series "The Man from Blackhawk." From 1964 to 1965 he co-starred with another former child actor, Tony Dow (of television's "Leave it to Beaver" fame), in the ABC television soap opera for teens "Never Too Young." In 1965 he starred as 'Frank' in "The Firebrand" of the NBC education drama series "Mr. Novak," starring actor James Franciscus. He found the transition from a child star difficult, and had several well-publicized legal entanglements relating to illegal recreational drugs (a conviction for growing marijuana on his farm, and a cocaine possession charge of which he was exonerated). Some years after he left acting, he became a motivational speaker which, through work on computer mailing lists, led to involvement in the early days of personal computers. From 1967 until 1971 he formed his own production company, Potpourri Productions, that did television commercials and business films. For the last 15 years of his life, he was a well-known database programmer, author, and technical expert. He was an early employee of Ashton-Tate, and specialized in the computer languages dBASE, Clipper, FoxBASE and finally FoxPro. In October 1991 he made a guest appearance in an episode of the later television series "The New Lassie," with former "Lassie" child actor Jon Provost (known for his role as 'Timmy'), and featured appearances from two other Lassie veterans, Roddy McDowall, who had starred in the first movie "Lassie Come Home" (1943) and June Lockhart, who had starred in the 1945 movie "Son of Lassie" and the television series as Timmy's mother. He died in Marina del Rey, California at the age of 54.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 29 Jan 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8329
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Tommy Rettig (10 Dec 1941–15 Feb 1996), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8329, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea, who reports a Ashes Scattered at Sea.