Frankie 'Space Cadet' Thomas dead at 85

May 17, 2006 at 5:30 PM
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SHERMAN OAKS, Calif., May 17 (UPI) -- Child actor Frankie Thomas who skyrocketed to fame in the 1950s as TV's "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet," has died in Sherman Oaks, Calif., at age 85.

Thomas died Thursday of respiratory failure at Sherman Oaks Hospital and was buried Tuesday in his "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" costume, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The New York native got his start on Broadway in the early 1930s and reprised his stage role in RKO's 1934 film, "Wednesday's Child," the Times said.

After that, he split his time between the Big Apple and Tinsel Town, appearing on stage in "Remember the Day," "Seen but Not Heard" and "Your Loving Son" and on the big screen in "A Dog of Flanders," "Boys Town" and "The Major and the Minor."

He also starred in the 1937 adventure serial, "Tim Tyler's Luck" and appeared in four Nancy Drew films as the teenage detective's boyfriend, Ted Nickerson.

After serving in World War II, Thomas landed a role on the TV soap "A Woman to Remember," but he made his mark in U.S. pop culture as Tom Corbett, a Space Academy cadet in training to become a member of the elite Solar Guard, 400 years in the future.

"Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" debuted in 1950 as a 15-minute, three-night-a-week series on CBS and later expanded to a half-hour show also seen on ABC, NBC and the DuMont networks and heard on radio.

After the series ended in 1955, Thomas did some radio and TV writing, became a master bridge player and president of the American Bridge Teachers' Association and edited their quarterly magazine.

He also wrote a dozen novels featuring Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, including one combining both of his key interests -- "Sherlock Holmes, Bridge Detective."

His wife died in 1997 and he is survived by a stepdaughter, stepson and a step-grandson.

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