Tommy Noonan

Actor, Director


Tommy Noonan was still in his teens when he and his half-brother, John Ireland, made their stage debuts with a New York-based experimental theater. Noonan then returned to his home state of Delaware to launch his own repertory company. After serving in the Navy during WWII, Noonan made his Broadway bow, then was brought to Hollywood with an RKO contract. When his brother, John, married actress Joanne Dru, Noonan befriended Joanne's brother, Peter Marshall. Taking into consideration the success of Martin and Lewis, Noonan and Marshall formed their own comedy team. It was a strictly informal professional association, with the teammates spending as much time apart as together. During one of the team's "down" periods, Noonan established himself as a supporting actor in films; he played Marilyn Monroe's boyfriend in Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953), Judy Garland's platonic musician friend in A Star Is Born (1954), and the officious floorwalker in Bundle of Joy, the 1956 musical remake Bachelor Mother (1939). In 1959, Noonan reteamed with Marshall for a feature film, The Rookie, which Noonan also wrote and produced. The picture was a disaster, as was its 1961 followup, Swingin' Along. The team broke up for keeps at this point; Peter Marshall went on to become a popular TV game show host, while Noonan gained prominence as the producer/star/"auteur" of two softcore nudie films, Jayne Mansfield's Promises Promises (1963) and Mamie Van Doren's Three Nuts in Search of a Bolt (1964). His last effort as a producer was 1967's Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers, which was also the screen swan song of the estimable Sonny Tufts. Five days short of his 47th birthday, Tommy Noonan died of a brain tumor.