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Jackie Kelk

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Jackie Kelk (August 6, 1923 – September 5, 2002) was a radio actor who played Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Superman for most of its run (at least seven years, by the actor's own estimation[1]), giving him his trademark "Gosh, Mr. Kent!" cracked voice. He occasionally doubled in other juvenile/teenage roles (such as newsboys). In later seasons, he frequently played Jimmy in the show's integrated commercials for Kellogg's Pep, bantering with Clark Kent.

The Eternal Juvenile

Kelk was one of radio's leading juvenile actors, beginning when he was still a child. While appearing in the 1932 Broadway play Bridal Wise (at the age of nine), he was spotted by comedienne Fanny Brice and cast as her son Irving in "The Cohens" sketches on NBC.[1] He also appeared as Georgie in the "Penrod" short film series (shot with New York actors) in the early 30s and made his Hollywood debut in Loretta Young's Born to Be Bad in 1934.

Remaining in New York radio, Kelk went on to such series as Coast to Coast on a Bus and Let's Pretend (which used all child/young teen casts), as well as comic strip adaptations such as The Gumps (as Chester in 1935), and Dick Tracy (as Junior in the 1930s). He continued in similar if only slightly older roles as he matured into his twenties and beyond. Heard on soap operas, children's adventure serials, and other fare, Kelk was particularly adept at comedy. His longest running role was on the family sitcom The Aldrich Family, playing Henry Aldrich's teenage sidekick Homer Brown from 1939 until 1951. Since Aldrich rehearsals were held on Thursday, Kelk was always absent from Superman on that day, with the writers either writing Jimmy out, having him referenced but not heard, or using Beany Martin as a substitute.[1]

Comics and Comedies

Prior to Superman, Kelk had co-starred opposite Bud Collyer on the comic strip adaptation Terry and the Pirates, originating the title role of young Terry Lee (beginning in 1937 and for several seasons thereafter), with Collyer as older adventurer Pat Ryan. In 1945, by now well-established from both Superman and Aldrich Family, Kelk landed a berth as the resident comedian on The Continental Celebrity Club, trading one-liners with host John Daly, bantering with guests like Dorothy Lamour and Peter Lawford, and participating in dramatic playlets. As a dramatic actor, he made a 1939 appearance in "Beau Geste" on Orson Welles' Campbell Playhouse, as well as some of Arch Oboler's antiwar radio plays, a stint as part of the stock company on the historical series Cavalcade of America in 1943 (mostly in wartime-themed episodes), Romance, Soap operas included Mother O'Mine (1940-1941, as Pete), Rosemary (as Tommy Tyler, circa 1940s), and Amanda of Honeymoon Hill (Jim Tolliver, also 1940s).

As the 1940s drew to a close, television was clearly affecting the future of radio. Kelk reprised his role of Homer Brown on TV's The Aldrich Family on NBC from October 1949 until June 1951. In August of that year, the network gave Kelk his own sitcom, Young Mr. Bobbin, as 18-year-old high school graduate Alexander Bobbin, focusing on his fortune-seeking aspirations and romantic problems. By 1955, Kelk relocated to Hollywood, with parts in the films Somebody Up There likes Me (1956) and Doris Day's The Pajama Game (1957). As network radio was in its waning years, he was heard in the anthology series The CBS Radio Workshop (1957, as a college student in "Young Man Axlebrod") and in multiple episodes of Suspense (1957-1958). He guest starred on Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show (semi-recurring as Dr. Boland), and Bachelor Father.

Though he essentially retired thereafter, Kelk was a presence at old-time radio conventions in his later years, including a Superman cast reunion.

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kelk, Jackie. Foreword. Superman with Batman & Robin on Radio Historical booklet. 1997

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