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Sonny Tufts
Tufts in 1943
Bowen Charlton Tufts III

(1911-07-16)July 16, 1911
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 4, 1970(1970-06-04) (aged 58)
Resting placeMunroe Cemetery
Alma materYale University
Years active1939–1968
Barbara Dare
(m. 1938; div. 1953)
RelativesCharles Tufts (great uncle)

Bowen Charlton "Sonny" Tufts III (July 16, 1911 – June 4, 1970) was an American stage, film, and television actor. He is best known for the films he made as a contract star at Paramount in the 1940s, including So Proudly We Hail!. He also starred in the cult classic Cat-Women of the Moon.

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Early life and family

Bowen Charlton Tufts III (some sources give "Charleston"[1][2]) (nicknamed "Sonny") was born in Boston into a prominent banking family, the son of Octavia Emily (Williams) and Bowen Charlton Tufts.[3] The Tufts family patriarch, Peter Tufts, sailed to America from Wilby, Norfolk, England in 1638. His granduncle was businessman and philanthropist Charles Tufts, for whom Tufts University is named.[4]

Tufts attended the Phillips Exeter Academy, He later broke with the family banking tradition by not studying business at Harvard, choosing instead to study opera at Yale University, where he was an editor of campus humor magazine The Yale Record.[4][5] He was a member of the Skull and Bones society and played for the Yale football team. Tufts also performed in a musical group, the Whiffenpoofs, and toured with the group in Europe.

While touring in Naples, Tufts decided to study opera. He studied opera in Paris for a year and in the United States for three.[6]


After graduating from Yale in 1935, Tufts auditioned with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, but eventually worked on the Broadway stage. He appeared in the stage show Who's Who and Sing for Your Supper (1939). Tufts then began singing in hotels and nightclubs.


A Yale classmate of Tufts' later convinced him to move to Hollywood to begin a career as an actor. Upon arriving in Hollywood, Tufts' friend, hotel manager Jack Donnelly, accompanied Tufts to Paramount Pictures and introduced him to a casting director Joe Egli. Egli shot a screen test with Tufts, who was then signed to Paramount.

Tufts, 1943

His first role was as Kansas, an affable Marine and love interest of Paulette Goddard in the 1943 World War II romantic drama So Proudly We Hail!.[6] The film was a critical and box-office hit, largely due to the three female leads: Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, and Veronica Lake.[7] Tufts' performance was praised by critics and the role served as a launching pad for his career. After the release of the film, Tufts received 1700 fan letters a week and was named "The Find of 1943."[8]

Due to an old college football injury, Tufts was one of the few male actors not serving overseas in the war.[9] He was borrowed by RKO, which was looking for a leading man to support Olivia de Havilland in the comedy Government Girl (1944); Paramount got Maureen O'Hara in exchange.[6] (This meant he had to drop out of Standing Room Only; he was replaced by Fred MacMurray.[10]) The film was a huge hit and Tufts was voted the number one "Star of Tomorrow" by exhibitors for 1944.[11]

Before filming of So Proudly We Hail! was complete, director Mark Sandrich commissioned So Proudly's screenwriter Allan Scott to write a vehicle for Tufts and his co-star Paulette Goddard.[8][12] That film, entitled I Love a Soldier (1944) was a mild hit.

Sandrich directed Tufts' next film, Here Come the Waves (1944), which was a huge success, due in part to stars Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton. Sandrich died in 1945.

Tufts made another musical comedy Bring On the Girls (1945) with Eddie Bracken and Veronica Lake, replacing Dick Powell.[13] Tufts sang several songs, but the film was a box-office disappointment. He made a cameo along with most Paramount stars in Duffy's Tavern (1945), singing "Swinging on a Star".

He was reunited with Lake in Miss Susie Slagle's (1946) alongside Joan Caulfield.

Paramount tried him in a Western The Virginian (1946), though it was in a supporting role. He was reunited with De Havilland in The Well-Groomed Bride (1946), replacing Dennis O'Keefe[14] but she wound up with Ray Milland at the end of the film. However, Paramount did give Tufts the star part in Swell Guy (1946) opposite Ann Blyth.[15] He also got to co star opposite Betty Hutton in Cross My Heart (1946).

Tufts was the romantic male lead in Easy Come, Easy Go (1947), a Barry Fitzgerald vehicle. It was directed by John Farrow, who also used Tufts in Blaze of Noon (1947) playing one of four brothers who fly. After a cameo in Variety Girl (1947), Tufts left Paramount.

Freelance actor

He starred in a Western, The Untamed Breed (1948). He was in a thriller with John Payne, The Crooked Way (1949) where he played a ruthless villain. He received praise for his performance, with critics noting that he "work[ed] against type quite effectively".[16]. Tufts was Victor Mature's friend in Easy Living (1949) at RKO. He was arrested for public drunkenness in 1950.[17] and 1951.[18]

By the early 1950s, Tufts' popularity began to wane and his career began to decline. He separated from his wife in 1951 and she divorced him in 1952, saying his drinking had become "intolerable".[19] He was unemployed for a year until he received an offer from Britain to make The Gift Horse (1952) with Richard Attenborough.[20]

In 1953, Tufts was cast opposite Barbara Payton in the low-budget comedy film Run for the Hills. Later that year, he was in No Escape and starred in another low-budget film, Cat-Women of the Moon, which became a cult classic. He had the lead in the low-budget 1954 film Serpent Island.


Tufts' career decline was compounded by his alcoholism and his off-screen antics.[9] In March 1954, a stripper named Barbara Gray Atkins sued Tufts for $25,000 in damages after she claimed he bit her left thigh while his two friends and he were visiting her home.[21] Atkins later dropped the lawsuit against Tufts.[22][23][24]

In April 1954, a 19-year-old dancer named Margarie Von accused Tufts of biting her on the right thigh while she was relaxing aboard a yacht docked off the coast of Balboa Peninsula, Newport Beach. Von sued Tufts for $26,000, claiming the bite left a three-inch scar. Von later settled for $600.[22][25] In August 1955, a third complaint was lodged against Tufts when Adrienne Fromann claimed the actor beat and bruised her at a restaurant. She demanded $20,000 in damages.[26]

"He drinks too much and lives too lavishly", said his ex-wife Barbara.[27]

Tufts' career briefly rebounded when he was cast in a small role in the comedy The Seven Year Itch (1955), starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe. In 1956, Tufts had a supporting role in drama Come Next Spring for Republic Pictures. He was in "A Tale of Two Citizens" for Damon Runyon Theatre (1956). After filming The Parson and the Outlaw in 1957, and being arrested for public drunkenness again,[28] Tufts retreated to a ranch in Texas.

Later career

In 1962, he returned to Hollywood to produce and star in a film All the Way about paratroopers.[27][29] It was not made.

Tufts returned to acting in 1963 with a guest appearance on The Virginian playing the father of Trampas (Doug McClure) and in a Bob Hope TV special Have Girls Will Travel (1964).[30] He was in Town Tamer (1965) and "The Ordeal of Bud Windom" on The Loner (1965) with Lloyd and Jeff Bridges. His final onscreen roles were Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers (1967) and the 1968 television movie Land's End. He appeared several times as himself in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in 1968.

Personal life

Sonny Tufts and his wife Barbara Dare, 1943

In 1938, Tufts married Spanish dancer Barbara Dare.[31] They separated in 1949, and Dare filed for divorce in 1951, citing Tufts' excessive drinking as the reason for the breakup of their marriage.[31][32] Dare was granted an interlocutory divorce on October 21, 1951 which was final the following year.[32]


On June 4, 1970, Tufts died of pneumonia at age 58 at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California.[33] Tufts' private funeral was held on June 7 in Beverly Hills after which he was buried in Munroe Cemetery in Lexington, Massachusetts.[34][27]


Year Title Role Notes
1943 So Proudly We Hail! Kansas
1944 Government Girl E.H. 'Ed' Browne
1944 I Love a Soldier Dan Kilgore
1944 Here Come the Waves Windy "Pinetop" Windhurst
1945 Bring on the Girls Phil North
1945 Duffy's Tavern Sonny Tufts Cameo role
1945 Miss Susie Slagle's Pug Prentiss
1946 The Virginian Steve Andrews
1946 The Well-Groomed Bride Lt. Torchy McNeil
1946 Swell Guy Jim Duncan
1946 Cross My Heart Oliver Clarke
1947 Easy Come, Easy Go Kevin O'Connor
1947 Blaze of Noon Roland McDonald
1947 Variety Girl Sonny Tufts
1948 The Untamed Breed Tom Kilpatrick
1949 The Crooked Way Vince Alexander
1949 Easy Living Tim "Pappy" McCarr
1953 Glory at Sea Ordinary Seaman 'Yank' Flanagan Alternative title: Gift Horse
1953 Run for the Hills Charlie Johnson
1953 No Escape Det. Simon Shayne Alternative title: City on a Hunt
1953 Cat-Women of the Moon Laird Grainger
1954 Serpent Island Pete Mason
1955 The Seven Year Itch Tom MacKenzie
1956 Come Next Spring Leroy Hightower
1957 The Parson and the Outlaw Jack Slade Alternative titles: The Killer and 21 Men
Return of the Outlaw
1965 Town Tamer Carmichael
1967 Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers Cousin Urie
Year Title Role Notes
1955 Damon Runyon Theater Sam Episode: "A Tale of Two Citizens"
1963 The Virginian Frank Trampas Episode: "Ride a Dark Trail"
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Monk Episode: "Have Girls, Will Travel"
1965 The Loner Barney Windom Segment: "The Ordeal of Bud Windom"
1965 My Mother The Car Himself Episode: "And Leave The Drive-In to Us"
1968 Land's End Hal Television movie
1968 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Himself Various Episodes


  1. ^ "Sonny Tufts". Chicago Sunday Tribune. January 12, 1947. p. 14.
  2. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 156.
  3. ^ "The Smith College Monthly". 1911.
  4. ^ a b Lamparski, Richard (1968). Whatever Became Of–?: Second Series. Crown Publishers. p. 146.
  5. ^ "Sonny Tufts, Boston And Yale Scion, Makes Good In Movies". Miami Daily News. July 7, 1943. p. 21.
  6. ^ a b c Graham, Sheliah. "Sonny Tufts, Boston and Yale Scion, Makes Good In Movies". The Miami News. pp. 7–C. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  7. ^ Nixon, Rob. "So Proudly We Hail!". Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Sonny Tufts Sets Hollywood Record". Lewiston Evening Journal. December 8, 1944. pp. A–5. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Thomas, Bob (November 28, 1979). "And Whatever Happened To Sonny Tufts Anyway?". Toledo Blade. p. P–2. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  10. ^ Screen News and in Hollywood. (June 9, 1943). The New York Times
  11. ^ "Saga of the High Seas". The Mercury. Hobart, Tasmania. November 11, 1944. p. 9. Retrieved April 24, 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ Hopper, H. (October 1, 1944). Back Bay backslider crashes films; Joe Pasternak reveals his secret. Los Angeles Times
  13. ^ Screen News Here and in Hollywood. (November 20, 1943). The New York Times
  14. ^ Sonny Tufts is added to 'well-groomed bride'. (December 22, 1944). The New York Times
  15. ^ By, E. J. (January 19, 1947). Turning a spotlight on little known facets of Sonny Tufts' career. The New York Times
  16. ^ Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  17. ^ Sonny Tufts booked as drunk. (April 26, 1950). The New York Times
  18. ^ Sonny Tufts and Hawaiian actress seized as drunk. (June 1, 1951). Los Angeles Times
  19. ^ Sonny Tufts' wife testifies in divorce suit. (September 18, 1952). Los Angeles Times
  20. ^ Maintenance suit hits at Sonny Tufts. (May 30, 1951). Los Angeles Times
  21. ^ "Tufts Puts "The Bite" On Stripper". The Miami News. March 31, 1954. p. 7–B. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  22. ^ a b "Dancer's Biting Claim Settled For $600". Reading Eagle. January 8, 1955. p. 8. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  23. ^ Sonny Tufts bit her, dancer says in suit. (March 31, 1954). Los Angeles Times
  24. ^ Dancer drops suit over bite by Sonny Tufts. (April 22, 1954). Los Angeles Times
  25. ^ Sonny Tufts bit her, says second dancer. (April 21, 1954). Los Angeles Times
  26. ^ Woman names Sonny Tufts in battery suit. (August 5, 1955). Los Angeles Times
  27. ^ a b c "Stardom During War With His First Movie, 'So Proudly We Hail!' Sonny Tufts" Rawitch, Robert. Los Angeles Times June 6, 1970: a1.
  28. ^ "Sonny Tufts Takes a Fall; Held as Drunk." (September 3, 1957). Chicago Daily Tribune
  29. ^ "Absent 3 Years, Sonny Tufts Back in Films" Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune; October 12, 1962: b14.
  30. ^ "'High Noon'? No–Sundown", Los Angeles Times, October 11, 1964: A3.
  31. ^ a b Lamparski 1968, p. 147
  32. ^ a b "Divorce Due For Actor". Eugene Register-Guard. September 17, 1952. p. 8–G. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  33. ^ "Sonny Tufts, Noted Actor, Dead at 58". The Telegraph. June 6, 1970. p. 3. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  34. ^ "Sonny Tufts' Rites". Lodi News-Sentinel. June 8, 1960. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2014.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 May 2023, at 20:23
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