“Old Yeller” Star Dies At 79

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In 1957, the world fell in love with the film Old Yeller, which was produced by Walt Disney.

The film is about the Coates family in post-Civil War Texas who bring a dog they name Old Yeller into their home after finding him in the cornfield. Travis, the teenage Coates boy, tries to shoo the dog away, but his younger brother, Arliss, fell in love with him and convinces the family to keep him.

Travis eventually forms a strong bond with the dog, even with its annoying tendencies like stealing meat from smokehouses and robbing hens’ nests. His character arc and bond with the dog made the world fall in love with the actor who portrayed Travis, Tommy Kirk.

The success of Old Yeller catapulted Kirk into stardom and landed him more starring roles in the popular Walt Disney Studios movies The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones . Previously, he played Joe Hardy in The Mickey Mouse Club’s serial “The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure.”

In 2006, Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legen with frequent co-star Tim Considine and his Old Yeller brother Kevin Corcoran.

On Wednesday (Sep 28), fellow child star Paul Peterson announced Kirk’s death on his Facebook page.

My friend of many decades, Tommy Kirk, was found dead last night,” he wrote.

ABC7 reporter George Penacchio says that Peterson told him Kirk’s Old Yeller co-star Beverly Washburn found him in his bed in Las Vegas. According to Peterson, Kirk didn’t have a relationship with his family after he came out as gay, and that his friends were now his family.

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Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.