Frankie Thomas - Tom Corbett Space Cadet
April 9, 1921 - May 11, 2006
I first encountered Frankie as Frankie when the telephone rang one day in 1998 and I picked it up to hear a distinctive, youthful-but-deep voice that I recognized instantly without needing his quick identification, "Hello, Rory, this is Frankie Thomas." We never met in person but I was always delighted to hear from and about him by telephone, and was able to interview him for several hours, particularly about his career in early television before SPACE CADET.
His great and good friend Jan Merlin was also a gold mine of information about his own career and Frankie's and kindly kept me informed about Frankie's state of health, especially in the last few years when it was clear that Frankie's health was increasingly becoming a cause for concern. I don't know how many packs a day Frankie smoked for all his adult life, but I think the sum total must have been stupifying... yet he made it to and past the ripe age of 85.
Frankie's film career both as child and adult actor needs a whole volume to do it justice. He created so many roles that were infused with his own charm and a nearly transparent acting style that made you think you were watching not a performer but a real person who happened to look like Frankie. Another book would be required to do justice to his Broadway career, and yet another book to do justice to his TV career from the late 1940s to the mid 1950s. And don't forget the pleasure he gave us with his novels and short stories featuring the Great Detective himself, Sherlock Holmes. Of course to us here he will always be Tom Corbett, Space Cadet! He led us bravely into cosmic frontiers in "The Age of the Conquest of Space," and now he's gone courageously before us into "The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns...."
It was a great privilege to know Frankie, Tom, Tim, Ted, Bobby, Freddy the Mayor of Boystown, Chris,
Charley, Cadet Osborne, Danny, Nello, and all the other roles that will be associated with his name as long as the history of the 20th Century survives....