Tommy Kelly was hand-picked to play the role of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer in the late 30s. It was rumored that the 12-year-old boy from the Bronx was chosen by producer David O. Selznick from a pool of over 25,000 youngsters.
Just a short time after the auditions, Kelly would become immortalized as the face of Tom Sawyer in Selznick’s film The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938). The child star was also featured in several other films before exiting show business a just 25.
Following his career on the silver screen, Kelly served in the U.S. Army and earned a Ph.D. from Michigan State. He once worked as a Peace Corps administrator in Liberia in the late 1960s. Following his return to the States, he earned a top-ranking position with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in Washington. He also served as an International Relations Advisor working in ways with the United Nations, assisting organizations concerned with food and agriculture.
Tommy Kelly passed away in Greensboro, North Carolina on January 26th, 2016 from congestive heart failure. He was 90 years old.
We are saddened to hear of such a loss and extend our thoughts and prayers to Kelly’s family during this difficult time.
Watch the clip below for a look back on Tommy’s time in Hollywood!
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