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T–V Entries
George Takei
Rod Taylor
Marshall Thompson
Kenneth Tobey
Ivan Tors
Thomas Tryon
Sonny Tufts
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Sir Peter Ustinov
Robert Vaughn
Jules Verne
Gore Vidal
Thea von Harbou
Max von Sydow
 
TOBEY, KENNETH
(1919–2002). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in; The Thing (from Another World) (Howard HAWKS, uncredited, and Christian Nyby 1951); The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (Eugene LOURIE 1953); It Came from Beneath the Sea (Robert Gordon 1955); "Y.O.R.D." (1955), "The Green Bomb" (1956), episodes of Science Fiction Theatre; The Search for Bridie Murphy (Noel Langley 1956); The Vampire (Paul Landres 1957); "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1959), episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; X-15 (Richard DONNER 1961);"Finnegan's Flight" (1972), episode of Night Gallery; Ben (Phil Karlson 1972); "Alethea" (1973), episode of Kung Fu; Rage (George C. Scott 1973); Homebodies (Peter Brocco 1974); Gus (Vincent McEveety 1976); "Gus" (1977), episode of The Wonderful World of Disney; "The Mystery of the Silent Scream" (1977), episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries; Airplane (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker 1980); Hero at Large (Martin Davidson 1980); The Howling (Joe DANTE 1981); The Creature Wasn't Nice (Bruce Kimmel 1981); Strange Invaders (Michael Laughlin 1983); Gremlins (uncredited) (Dante 1984); The Lost Empire (Jim WYNORSKI 1985); Attack of the B Movie Monster (Wayne Berwick 1985); "Fatal Flaw" (1986), episode of Starman; "A Day in Beaumont" (1986), episode of Twilight Zone; Innerspace (Dante 1987); Big-Top Pee-Wee (Randal Kleiser 1988); Ghost Writer (tv movie) (Kenneth J. Hall 1990); Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Dante 1990); Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (Kleiser 1992); "Shadowplay," "Life Support" (1994), episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; The Naked Monster (Berwick and Ted Newsom 2005).
 
Kenneth Tobey is frequently overlooked in surveys of science fiction stars of the 1950s, one might argue, because he typically portrays a man who wishes to be overlooked—a simple, straightforward man, usually a soldier or police officer, who doesn't want to be a hero, but only wants to do the job he has been given, and do it well, and then recede into the background while he waits for his next assignment. And whether that assignment involves tracking down some train-robbing varmint or destroying a giant octopus climbing on to the Golden Gate Bridge does not strike him as a matter of great importance. But another reason for his neglect must be considered: after a few key roles early in the 1950s, Tobey found it difficult to obtain further roles in the decade's steady parade of movies about monsters and aliens, suggesting that, for some fundamental reason, he was not really suited to star in science fiction films.

Tobey may well have spent his entire career portraying sheriffs and soldiers but for the accident of meeting Howard HAWKS while playing a tiny part in I Was a Male War Bride (1948). A few years later, uncharacteristically preparing a science fiction film to provide his longtime editor Christian Nyby with a needed directorial credit, Hawks must have remembered Tobey and realized that he would be ideal as the hard-nosed commander of the Arctic base beset by a malevolent plant from outer space. Having excelled in that role, Tobey was a natural choice to star in two subsequent monster movies, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and It Came from Beneath the Sea. But in those films, the problem with Tobey became evident. In Hawks's vision of science fiction, scientists figured mainly as effeminate idealists who needed to be shoved aside by tough guys like Tobey who could manfully deal with the menace at hand. Yet the general trend in 1950s science fiction films was to present scientists as handsome heroes who combined machismo with scientific knowledge to overcome the monsters; and it was apparent that Tobey, unlike other stalwarts like Richard CARLSON or even Jeff MORROW, was utterly unable to convey any genuine understanding of science. Thus, he could bark out orders and punch people out, but he had to depend on someone else to explain what was going on and figure out how to deal with it.So it is that in It Came from Beneath the Sea, although Tobey is apparently the hero who appears in all the scenes and gets the girl, all he really does is to implement the good advice of stunningly beautiful marine biologist Faith DOMERGUE, the person who, in the end, is actually responsible for ridding San Francisco of that troublesome giant octopus. And while contemporary scholars might be pleased by the proto-feminist message conveyed by her leading role in combating the monster, it was an absolute body blow to Tobey's credibility as a science fiction hero.

Thus, while continuing to land occasional film roles, Tobey largely retreated to a career in television, where he spent the better part of two decades apparently guest-starring in every single western series ever filmed, from Frontier Circus to Kung Fu, and made several appearances alongside his old sparring partner from The Thing (from Another World), the now-respectable James Arness, along with numerous roles in modern dress as an officer or policeman. When he reached the age of sixty, one might have expected him to drift into retirement; but there was now a new generation of film directors in Hollywood who had grown up watching and loving 1950s science fiction films and were eager to reconnect with beloved childhood heroes. So Tobey launched a new career of cameo performances in various homages to, and spoofs of, the 1950s films he had once been a part of. There was nothing really remarkable about any of these later roles, but you can be sure that Tobey always showed up on time, knew his lines, and did exactly what he was supposed to do, just like the proverbial good soldier he was born to play.

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