Jon Provost as Timmy Martin
|"The Runaway" (1957)
|"The Wayfarers" (1964)
|Robert Maxwell • Jack Wrather
|Farm boy • School boy • 4-H member • Cub Scout
|Jed and Abby Clausen (aged aunt and uncle) • Ellen, George, and Jeff Miller (foster family) • Ruth and Paul Martin (adoptive parents) • Lassie (companion animal)
Timmy Martin is a fictional character portrayed by child actor Jon Provost in the television series Lassie (1954–1973). Provost debuted in the first episode of the fourth season, "The Runaway" (1957), as the fictional foster child of farm woman Ellen Miller. Both the character and its portrayer were hits with the show's audience. In the middle of the fourth season series star George Cleveland died unexpectedly and producers were forced to overhaul the show. Timmy was fostered by newcomers to the series Paul Martin and his wife, Ruth, who purchase the Miller farm.
Once the Timmy years of the show were launched, Lassie enjoyed its highest ratings, with Timmy appearing in all 226 episodes between his debut and his final appearance in the first episode of the 1964-1965 season. The Timmy character appeared in comic books, novels, Viewmaster reels, and other spinoff materials related to the show. Provost briefly reprised the character as an adult Timmy in the syndicated series, The New Lassie (1989–1990). Jon Provost was nominated in 2003 for a TV Land award connected to his participation in Lassie.[ citation needed ]
In the opener of the fourth season, "The Runaway" fictional midwestern farm family Ellen Miller (Jan Clayton), her son Jeff (Tommy Rettig), and her father-in-law, George Miller (George Cleveland), discover a seven-year-old tattered runaway hiding in their barn. Timmy, they later learn, has fled his aged and ill relatives, believing he is a burden on their slim resources. Ellen contacts the boy's relatives and a social worker, and all agree Timmy would benefit from a summer on the farm.
Midway in the fourth season, Ellen sells the farm to a young couple, Ruth and Paul Martin (Cloris Leachman and Jon Shepodd), after the death of her father-in-law. The Martins foster Timmy, and Jeff leaves Lassie on the farm with Timmy when he moves to the city, knowing the dog could never adjust to life in a busy city.Leachman and Shepodd would finish the fourth season and then be dropped. Their characters would be played thereafter by Hugh Reilly and June Lockhart. During the years that Reilly and Lockhart were on the show, the writers phased out all mention of Timmy being adopted, leading new viewers to assume that June Lockhart and Hugh Reilly played Timmy's biological parents.
In the fourth season episode, "The Ring", Paul's uncle Petrie (George Chandler) joins the cast but proved unpopular with the audience and left the show in the fifth season.
An attempt was made (but failed) to pair Timmy with a pal his own age. Kelly Junge, Jr. played Scott Richards through the last half of the fourth season but did not return for the fifth. Todd Ferrell as Ralph "Boomer" Bates, a chubby, beanie-wearing character, entered the show to recreate something of the popular Jeff and Porky friendship from the Miller years. "Boomer" never became an audience favorite and was dropped at the end of the fifth season. Thereafter, Timmy never had another steady chum on the show though classmate Wilhelmina "Willy" Brewster (Linda Wrather, 1957–1961, daughter of the show's producers Jack Wrather and Bonita Granville Wrather), made several appearances.
In 1959, veteran actor and comedian Andy Clyde was cast in the show's "grandfatherly" role of Cully Wilson, an eccentric farmer, nature lover, and Martin family neighbor. Timmy and Cully were scripted into many adventures together, and Cully became one of Timmy's several adult friends that included Fire Chief Ed Washburne (Dick Foran), veterinarian Doc Weaver (Arthur Space), telephone operator Jenny (Florence Lake), and Sheriff Miller (Robert Foulk). Cully was a hit and, as a result, producers curtailed Paul's presence in the series, fearing two adult males on the show would overwhelm the audience.
As the series aged and environmental issues became a real-life concern across America, producers introduced the subject into the show at the request of the United States Forestry Service.Characters on the show were placed in situations concerning such issues. Timmy and Cully, for example, protest the proposed construction of a road through a pristine forested area. In other episodes, Timmy spearheads a classroom tree planting project called Operation Woodland, he traps and relocates (rather than kills), the beavers wreaking havoc with a local waterway, he builds bluebird nesting boxes, and feeds wildlife during severe winter weather.
In 1963, the multi-part episode, "The Journey" was edited into a feature film called Lassie's Great Adventure. The show's three principal human stars appeared in their well known roles. In the film, Timmy and Lassie are swept away in a carnival hot air balloon which finally descends far from home in the Canadian wilderness. The two travelers have several adventures before being rescued by the Mounties. Ruth's role is confined to tearfully worrying about Timmy and finding comfort in Paul's arms. The couple fly to the wilderness to be at hand when Timmy is found. The episode was the only episode filmed in color during the Martin family seasons.
Lassie debuted in September 1954 and, as its fourth season approached in 1957, child star Tommy Rettig was fifteen-years-old, dating, and driving cars. He wanted to leave the show. His co-star Jan Clayton was considering a return to her roots in musical theater.
Millionaire oilman Jack Wrather had recently purchased the show from producer Robert Maxwell and anticipated a long and successful run for his $3,250,000 Emmy-winning investment, but he was concerned that Rettig was growing too old for the boy and his dog plot. Aware of the stars' wishes, executives reworked the show intending to introduce new characters and eventually write the Rettig and Clayton characters out of the show. A seven-year-old character called Timmy was woven into the plot. The character was named for Associate Producer Bonita Granville Wrather's mother, "Timmie."
With a new storyline waiting in the wings, Wrather personally selected Jon Provost, a child actor with several film credits, for the role of Timmy. Provost was the only actor considered for the role. The Timmy character debuted in the fourth season opener, "The Runaway" and was an instant hit with audiences.
As the Lassie 1964 season approached, Jon Provost was a fourteen-year-old with his contract up for a three-year renewal. Provost however did not look forward to playing Timmy Martin until the age of seventeen, describing the role as a "vacuum" and stating,
"The character wasn't changing. If they had let him grow up a little, maybe I would have wanted to stay on. I knew that I wasn't going to sign up for another three years, and my parents were behind me all the way."
Stars Lockhart, Reilly, and Andy Clyde received their notices, with producer Bob Golden telling the press they'd done all the "boy and his dog" stories possible. With only Provost and producers knowing the real reasons for the show changes, speculation among the cast hinted that the decision to clean house was based on money. Lockhart was quoted as saying Provost's mother wanted too much money, and Reilly later stated that the producers' decision was based upon trading four advanced salaries for Robert Bray's starting salary.
Associate producer Bonita Granville Wrather kept the audience guessing through the summer of 1964 about the show's future by stating,
"We have built up such an adult audience; we are looking for stories with a wider scope. That's what our whole purpose will be in making any change that people might think we're making...our ratings have jumped in the past two years and it's because we do new things."
Without a boy in the cast as a principal character, producers reworked the show from a different angle. Several episodes which featured Lassie in the wilds such as "The Odyssey" and "The Journey" had proven popular with audiences. Jack Wrather and his associates decided to take Lassie off the farm and send her into the wilderness with a Forest Ranger who had previously appeared on the show in the tenth season's "Disappearance", Corey Stuart, played by Gary Cooper look-alike Robert Bray. Lassie would become the companion, not of boys, but of rugged, outdoorsy men sometimes working in dangerous places and situations.
Producers sent the Martin family to Australia where Paul would teach agriculture. Lockhart commented wryly, "We were supposed to go over there so that Paul could show the Australians how to grow things. We hadn't had a successful bean crop in six seasons. What could they possibly learn from us?" Lassie's three human companions then made their last appearances in the first part of "The Wayfarers" (1964), the opening three-part episode of the eleventh season. Lassie was forced to remain in the States due to Australia's strict quarantine regulations, and, though the dog would become the companion animal of a succession of forestry workers and see several seasons of new adventures, Timmy Martin would never be seen, heard, or referenced again on the show.
Jon Provost received a 2003 TV Land Favorite Pet Human Relationship Award nomination for Lassie (1954). The actor has also received a Star on the Walk of Fame (Television) at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard, and, in 1990, a Young Artists Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award. Long after the show's cancellation, Provost's Keds were placed on display in the Smithsonian Institution's television collections.
The highest rankings in the Nielsen ratings for Lassie were the Martin family years: #24 in 1957, #22 in 1958, #15 in 1959, #15 in 1961, #21 in 1962, #13 in 1963, and #17 in 1964. The only year the show did not climb into the top twenty-five was 1960, when it ran opposite Walt Disney Presents on ABC and Shirley Temple Theatre on NBC. With the departure of the Martin family in the eleventh season, the show began a steady decline in ratings.
The character Timmy Martin was reprised for the 1989 syndicated series The New Lassie . Provost returned to play the role of Timmy, who was now an adult who went by the name Steve McCullough. In the seventh episode of the series June Lockhart also reprises her role as Ruth Martin, and viewers are told that Timmy was never properly adopted by the Martins. As such he was left behind when Paul and Ruth emigrated to Australia at the end of the original Lassie, causing him to feel extremely bitter towards the Martins, and changed to using his real first name of Steve instead of his middle name Timmy, and took on his new adoptive parents last name. At the end of the episode, he reconciles with his former adoptive mother.
Photographic and painted images of Jon Provost as Timmy Martin wearing his red-and-white gingham checked shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers were frequently used to promote a variety of merchandise marketed during Timmy years of the show. Provost as Timmy appeared on the covers of Whitman novels, a punch out book, Dell comic books, Campbell's Soup labels and in the soup company's television commercials.A complete line of boys' wear—shirts, pants, sweaters, ties, and more—bore the label: Jon Provost, Timmy of the Lassie series.
"Timmy's in the well!" became a catchphrase years after the show's cancellation in reference to the many show situations in which Timmy's safety and welfare were placed in jeopardy. Although Timmy never fell into a well on the show, Jon Provost chose the phrase as the title for his 2007 memoirs, Timmy's in the Well: The Jon Provost Story. Provost points out that Timmy fell into abandoned mine shafts, off cliffs, into rivers, lakes and quicksand, but never fell into a well.
June Lockhart is an American actress, primarily in 1950s and 1960s television, also with performances on stage and in film. On two television series, Lassie and Lost in Space, she played mother roles. She also portrayed Dr. Janet Craig on the CBS television sitcom Petticoat Junction (1968–70). She is a two-time Emmy Award nominee and a Tony Award winner.
Pal was a male Rough Collie performer and the first in a line of such dogs to portray the fictional female collie Lassie in film, on radio, and on television. Pal was born in California in 1940 and eventually brought to the notice of Rudd Weatherwax, a Hollywood animal trainer. In 1943, the dog was chosen to play Lassie in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer feature film, Lassie Come Home. Following his film debut, Pal starred in six more Lassie films for MGM from the mid-1940s to early 1950s, then appeared briefly in shows, fairs, and rodeos around the United States before starring in the two pilots filmed in 1954 for the television series, Lassie. Pal retired after filming the television pilots, and died in June 1958. He sired a line of descendants who continued to play the fictional character he originated. In 1992, The Saturday Evening Post said Pal had "the most spectacular canine career in film history".
Thomas Noel Rettig was an American child actor, computer software engineer, and author. Rettig is remembered for portraying the character "Jeff Miller" in the first three seasons of CBS's Lassie television series, from 1954 to 1957, later seen in syndicated re-runs with the title Jeff's Collie. And Leave it to Beaver. He also co-starred with another former child actor, Tony Dow, in the mid-1960s television teen soap opera Never Too Young and recorded the song by that title with the group, The TR-4.
The New Lassie is an American children and family oriented drama series which aired in first-run syndication from September 8, 1989 to February 15, 1992. The series stars Will Estes as Will McCullough, Lassie's new master. Real life husband and wife Christopher and Dee Wallace-Stone co-starred as Will's parents.
Lassie is an American television series that follows the adventures of a female Rough Collie dog named Lassie and her companions, both human and animal. The show was the creation of producer Robert Maxwell and animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax and was televised from September 12, 1954, to March 25, 1973. The fifth longest-running U.S. primetime television series after The Simpsons, Gunsmoke, Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the show ran for 17 seasons on CBS before entering first-run syndication for its final two seasons. Initially filmed in black and white, the show transitioned to color in 1965.
Jan Clayton was a film, musical theater, and television actress. She starred in the popular 1950s TV series Lassie.
Son of Lassie is a 1945 Technicolor feature film produced by MGM based on characters created by Eric Knight, and starring Peter Lawford, Donald Crisp, June Lockhart and Pal. A sequel to Lassie Come Home, the film focuses on the now adult Joe Carraclough after he joins the Royal Air Force during World War II and is shot down over Nazi-occupied Norway along with a stowaway, Lassie's son "Laddie" – played by Pal. Son of Lassie was released theatrically on April 20, 1945, by Loew's.
Jonathan Bion "Jon" Provost is an American actor, best known for his role as young Timmy Martin in the CBS series Lassie.
Lassie is a Canadian television series which aired from 1997 to 1999 on YTV in Canada and Sunday nights on the Animal Planet network in the United States, as a modified remake of the original Lassie series (1954–1973) about a boy and his faithful dog. As with previous Lassie TV versions and several movies dating back to the original Lassie Come Home movie of 1943, the star was Lassie, a trained Rough Collie.
Paul Martin is a fictional character on the long-running television series Lassie (1954–1973). Paul is a farmer, and the husband of Ruth, a housewife. The couple are adoptive parents of Timmy, a foster child living on a small farm in the American midwest that the couple purchase. Paul is depicted as a sober, industrious, brave, and intelligent man who attends church, is a volunteer firefighter, and a member of the Grange. In the show's fourth-season episode "The Ring", his uncle, Petrie Martin of Millvale, Pennsylvania, joins him on the farm to help with the work.
Ruth Martin is a fictional character on the long-running television series Lassie (1954–1973). She was briefly played by Cloris Leachman before June Lockhart stepped into the role. The character makes her first appearance mid-fourth season (1957) and her last in the first episode of the eleventh season (1964); she appears in 208 episodes in total.
Hugh Goodwin, better known as Jon Shepodd, was an American actor. On television, he was the first actor to play the role of Paul Martin in the long-running series Lassie Shepodd appeared as a guest star on Lassie in Season 3 in the episode "Lassie's Day" as "Al" the delivery man for Martha's Bakery.
Hugh Reilly was an American actor who performed on the Broadway stage, in films, and on television. He is best remembered for co-starring from 1958 to 1964 as the father, Paul Martin, in the CBS television series, Lassie.
Jeff Miller is a fictional character in the long-running television series Lassie (1954–1973). Jeff is an eleven-year-old boy living on a weatherbeaten farm in the American midwest with his war-widowed mother, Ellen Miller, and his paternal grandfather, George "Gramps" Miller. The character was created by producer Robert Maxwell and Lassie trainer Rudd Weatherwax, and was portrayed by child actor Tommy Rettig. Jeff makes his first appearance in the series premiere, "The Inheritance" (1954), and his last appearance in the mid-fourth-season episode, "Transition" (1957). The series won its only Emmy Awards during the character's stint on the show.
Ellen Miller is a fictional character in the long-running television series Lassie (1954–1973). Ellen is a war widow living on a weatherbeaten midwestern farm with her young son Jeff and her father-in-law George Miller. The character was created by producer Robert Maxwell and Lassie trainer Rudd Weatherwax, and was portrayed in the series by Jan Clayton. Ellen makes her debut in the premiere episode, "The Inheritance" (1954) and her last appearance in the mid-fourth season episode, "Timmy's Family" (1957). Clayton was nominated for two Emmy Awards for her performances as Ellen Miller on Lassie, and the series itself won two Emmys during her stint on the show.
Corey Stuart is a fictional character in the long-running television series, Lassie (1954–1973). Stuart is a middle aged bachelor and a Ranger with the United States Forest Service. The character was portrayed by Robert Bray. Corey Stuart first appeared in the series as a one-shot character in the tenth season episode, "Disappearance" (1963). He was a hit with the audience and returned full-time the following season as the series' only human lead. His last appearance occurred in the two-part episode of the fifteenth season, "The Holocaust" (1968).
Sylvester "Porky" Brockway is a fictional child character in the long-running American television series Lassie. The character was played by child actor Joey D. Vieira under the stage name "Donald Keeler". The chubby, beanie-wearing Porky is best friends with the show's star human character, eleven-year-old Jeff Miller played by Tommy Rettig. Porky is a farm boy and the son of Matt and Birdie Brockway. He has a basset hound called Pokey who generally accompanies him on various adventures with Jeff and Lassie. Porky debuts in the first-season episode, "Arithmetic", and makes his farewell appearance in the fourth-season episode, "Timmy's Family". Porky, his parents and several other characters were cut from the plot when stars Rettig and Jan Clayton were dropped in 1957 after the death of co-star George Cleveland.
Uncle Petrie or, Petrie J. Martin is a fictional character in the long-running American television series Lassie. Petrie is portrayed by George Chandler. The character was created to fill the "grandfatherly" role once occupied by George Cleveland as George "Gramps" Miller in the first several seasons of the show. Cleveland's death during fourth season filming forced producers to revamp the show with a complete cast change and an entirely new storyline. The Miller family of the first three seasons was dropped from the plot and a young couple, the Martins, brought in to buy the Miller farm and adopt the Miller foster child, Timmy.
Cully Wilson is a fictional character in the CBS television series, Lassie. Cully is an eccentric farmer and nature lover, and becomes Timmy Martin's best friend. The character was portrayed by Andy Clyde. Cully makes his first appearance in the 1959 sixth season episode, "The Water Boy", and his last appearance at the top of the 1964 eleventh season in the three-part episode, "The Wayfarers".