Tom Ewell

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Tom Ewell
Tom Ewell - 1958.jpg
Ewell in 1958
Samuel Yewell Tompkins

(1909-04-29)April 29, 1909
DiedSeptember 12, 1994(1994-09-12) (aged 85)
Years active1928–1986
Judith Abbott
(m. 1946;div. 1947)
Marjorie Sanborn
(m. 1948)

Tom Ewell (born Samuel Yewell Tompkins, April 29, 1909 – September 12, 1994) was an American film, stage and television actor, and producer. [1] His most successful and most identifiable role was that of Richard Sherman in The Seven Year Itch , a character he played in the Broadway production (1952–1954) and reprised for the 1955 film adaptation. He received a Tony Award for his work in the play and a Golden Globe Award for his performance in the film. Although Ewell preferred acting on stage, he accepted several other screen roles in light comedies of the 1950s, most notably The Girl Can't Help It (1956). [2] He appeared in the film version of the musical State Fair (1962) and in a small number of additional ones released between the early 1960s and 1980s.


Early life

Ewell was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the son of Martine (née Yewell) and Samuel William Tompkins. [3] His family expected him to follow in their footsteps as lawyers or whiskey and tobacco dealers, but Ewell decided to pursue acting instead. He began acting in summer stock in 1928 with Don Ameche before moving to New York City in 1931. He enrolled in the Actors Studio.


He made his Broadway debut in 1934 and his film debut in 1940, and for several years, he played comic supporting roles. His acting career was interrupted during World War II when he served in the United States Navy. [1] [4]

After World War II, Ewell attracted attention with a strong performance in the film Adam's Rib (1949), and he began to receive Hollywood roles more frequently. Ewell continued acting in summer stock through the 1940s: He starred opposite June Lockhart in Lawrence Riley's biographical play Kin Hubbard in 1951, the story of one of America's greatest humorists and cartoonists, Kin Hubbard. With this play, he made his debut as a producer. In 1947, he won a Clarence Derwent Award for his portrayal of Fred Taylor in the original Broadway cast of John Loves Mary. [2] [5]

With Paulette Girard in the Broadway play, The Seven Year Itch (1952) Tom Ewell - 1952.jpg
With Paulette Girard in the Broadway play, The Seven Year Itch (1952)

His most successful and, arguably, most identifiable role came in 1952, when he joined the Broadway production of The Seven Year Itch as protagonist Richard Sherman. With Vanessa Brown as "The Girl", Ewell played the part more than 950 times over three years, as he indicated in a mystery guest appearance on the June 12, 1955, airing of What's My Line? to promote the 1955 film adaptation. [2] [5] He earned both the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for portraying Sherman.

He enjoyed other film successes, including The Lieutenant Wore Skirts with Sheree North and The Girl Can't Help It (both 1956) opposite Jayne Mansfield. In The Girl Can't Help It, Julie London appears as a mirage to Tom Miller (Ewell) singing her signature song, "Cry Me a River". [5] He played Abel Frake in the 1962 version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair . In 1956, at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, he co-starred with Bert Lahr in the U.S. premiere of Waiting for Godot .

However, as his film and theater careers seemed to have reached their peaks, he turned his attention to television. Over several years, he played guest roles in numerous series, and received an Emmy Award nomination for his continuing role in Baretta . His final acting performance was in a 1986 episode of Murder, She Wrote . [5]

From September 1960 to May 1961, Ewell starred in his own television series, in the self-titled The Tom Ewell Show , which lasted for one season. [5]

In 1970, Ewell played Hoy Valentine in The Men From Shiloh (the rebranded name of The Virginian ) in the episode titled "With Love, Bullets and Valentines". In the mid-1970s, Ewell enjoyed popular success with a recurring role as retired veteran policeman Billy Truman in the 1970s Emmy-winning TV series Baretta . Ewell appeared in 36 episodes of the television-cop series, which starred Robert Blake as Detective Tony Baretta, until its end in 1978. In 1979, he was a guest star on the television series Taxi . Ewell also co-starred from 1981 to 1982 as the drunken town doctor in the short-lived television series Best of the West . [5]

Personal life and death

Trailer for Adam's Rib (1949) Tom Ewell in Adams Rib trailer.jpg
Trailer for Adam's Rib (1949)

On March 18, 1946, he married Judy Abbott, daughter of Broadway director George Abbott; the short-lived marriage ended in divorce a year later. Ewell then married Marjorie Sanborn on May 5, 1948; they had a son, Taylor. [6]

Ewell died of undisclosed causes at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital on September 12, 1994. His widow, Marjorie, said he had suffered a long series of illnesses. Ewell was also survived by his son, Taylor (born November 2, 1954), and by his mother, Martine Yewell Tompkins (1889–1998), [7] who lived in Curdsville, Kentucky, where she died at age 109. [8]


In 2003, Ewell was inducted into the Owensboro High School Hall of Fame.[ citation needed ]



1940 They Knew What They Wanted New Hired HandUncredited
1941 Back in the Saddle Fight SpectatorUncredited
1941 Desert Bandit Ordway - Texas Ranger
1947Babies, They're WonderfulHaroldShort Film
1948Mr. Groundling Takes the AirMr. GroundlingShort Film
1949 Adam's Rib Warren Attinger
1949Southward Ho Ho!TomShort Film
1949The Football FanTom - The Football FanShort Film
1949Caribbean CapersTom the TouristShort Film
1950 A Life of Her Own Tom Caraway
1950 American Guerrilla in the Philippines Jim Mitchell
1950 Mr. Music Haggerty
1950How Green Is My SpinachMan in AudienceUncredited (Short Film)
1950The Rhumba SeatTomShort Film
1951 Up Front Willie
1952 Finders Keepers Tiger Kipps
1952 Lost in Alaska Nugget Joe McDermott
1952 Back at the Front Willie
1955 The Seven Year Itch Richard Sherman
1956 The Lieutenant Wore Skirts Gregory Whitcomb
1956 The Great American Pastime Bruce Hallerton
1956 The Girl Can't Help It Tom Miller
1958 A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed Max Rutgers
1962 Tender Is the Night Abe North
1962 State Fair Abel Frake
1968Columbia Musical Travelark: Wonders of KentuckyColonel TomShort Film
1970 Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came Billy Joe Davis
1972 To Find a Man Dr. Hargrove
1972 They Only Kill Their Masters Walter
1974 The Great Gatsby MournerUncredited
1979Butterflies in HeatHadley Crabtree
1983 Easy Money Scrappleton


1948 Kraft Theatre Stephen Brewster"Suppressed Desires"
1948–49 Actors Studio Himself4 episodes
1949 NBC Presents himself2 episodes
1951 The Billy Rose Show Himself"Whirling of Life"
1951Dangerunknown role"The Night of March Fifteenth"
1951 Search for Tomorrow Sheriff Bill Langunknown episode(s)
1951 Studio One in Hollywood Willie Mason"Mighty Like a Rogue"
1951Lights OutCharlie Drome"The Deal"
1951 Cosmopolitan Theatre unknown role"Mr. Pratt and the Triple Horror Bill"
1952 Robert Montgomery Presents unknown role"See No Evil"
1955 Playwrights '56 William Bingham"Daisy, Daisy"
1955 Alfred Hitchock Presents Albert Pelham"The Case of Mr. Pelham"
1956 The Alcoa Hour Earl Carleton"Man on Fire"
1959 The United States Steel Hour Barney Henderson"The Square Egghead"
1959 General Electric Theatre John Emmet Owens"The Day of the Hanging"
1960–61 The Tom Ewell Show Tom Potterseries regular (32 episodes)
1962The Sound and the Fidelityunknown roleTV movie
1963 The Dick Powell Theatre Congressman Albert Higgins"The Honorable Albert Higgins"
1964 Wagon Train Hector Heatherton"The Hector Heatherton Story"
1965 Burke's Law Leander Clement"Who Killed Nobody Somehow?"
1966Summer Fununknown role"Kwimper of New Jersey"
1970 The Governor & J.J. Uncle Charley"Charley's Back in Town"
1970 The Virginian Hoy Valentine"With Love, Bullets and Valentines"
1971 The Name of the Game District Attorney Simpson"A Sister from Napoli"
1971 Alias Smith and Jones Deputy Treadwell"The Root of It All"
1973 The New Temperatures Rising Show Harry Butler"Diagnosis: Who Knows?"
1974 The Wide World of Mystery Lebow"The Spy Who Returned from the Dead"
1975Promise Him AnythingJudgeTV movie
1975–78 Baretta Billy Trumanseries regular (44 episodes)
1978 Fantasy Island Burt "Fingers" Lonegan"The Over the Hill Caper / Proof! You're a Movie Star"
1979The Return of Mod SquadCookTV movie
1979 Eischied Super2 episodes
1979 Taxi Dr. Richmond"Nardo Loses Her Marbles"
1979 Flying High Williams"Eye Opener"
1981–82 Best of the West Doc Kullensseries regular (22 episodes)
1982Terror at AlcatrazJohnsonTV movie
1982 Trapper John, M.D. Earl Tendermeyer"The Good Life"
1986 Murder, She Wrote Josh Corbin"Trial by Error"


1934They Shall Not DieRed, Young Man
1934Geraniums is My WindowDenver
1934–35The First LegionNovices and Choir
1935–36Let Freedom RingSmall HardyYoung Frank Martin at 21
1936Ethan FromeDennis Eady
1936–37 Stage Door Larry Westscott
1938–39 The Merchant of Yonkers Cornelius Hackl
1939Family PortraitSimon
1939–1940 Key Largo Gage (replacement)replaced Crahan Denton
1941Liberty JonesDick Brown
1941–42Sunny RiverDaniel Marshall
1946Apple of His EyeGlen Stover
1947–48John Loves MaryFred Taylor
1948–49Small Wonderunknown
1952–55 The Seven Year Itch Richard Sherman
1957–58The Tunnel of LoveAugie Poole
1958PatateLeon Rollo
1960 A Thurber Carnival Grant / He / Anderson / The Pet Counselor / James Thurber / Narrator / Walter Mitty
1965Xmas in Las VegasEdward T. Wellspot


YearAssociationCategoryNominated WorkResultsRef
1947 Clarence Derwent Awards Best Supporting Male (USA) Won
1953 Tony Award Best Actor in a Play The Seven Year Itch Won [2]
1956 Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy The Seven Year Itch Won [9]
1977 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Baretta Nominated [10]

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  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tom Ewell at IMDb
  6. "Tom Ewell, Actor, Is Dead at 85; Monroe's Co-Star in '7 Year Itch". The New York Times . Associated Press. September 13, 1994. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
  7. "RootsWeb: Database Index" . Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  8. Lawrence, Keith (September 21, 2004). "Owensboro's Tom Ewell had itch for acting". Messenger-Inquirer . Owensboro, Kentucky. Archived from the original on December 16, 2004. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  9. "Winners & Nominees 1956". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  10. "Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series Nominees / Winners 1977". Television Academy. Retrieved August 16, 2020.