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  George Takei
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(James Marshall Thompson 1926– ). American actor.

Acted in: The Cockeyed Miracle (S. Sylvan Simon 1946); Cult of the Cobra (Francis D. LYON 1955); "Stranger in the Desert," "The Frozen Sound," "Target Hurricane" (1955), "Bullet Proof," "The Human Experiment," "Three Minute Mile," "The Human Circuit" (1956), episodes of Science Fiction Theatre; "The House of the Seven Gables," "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1956), episodes of Matinee Theatre; Fiend without a Face (Arthur Crabtree  and Thompson, uncredited 1958); It! The Terror from Beyond Space (Edward L. CAHN 1958); First Man into Space (Robert Day 1959); World of Giants (tv series) (1959); "Flight to the Red Planet" (1960), episode of Men into Space; Around the World under the Sea (Andrew Marton 1966); "The Tank" (1976), episode of Ark II; Cruise into Terror (tv movie) (Bruce Kessler 1979); The Formula (John L. Avidsen 1980); Bog (Don Keeslar 1983).
The heroes of 1950s science fiction films generally project a sense of boundless optimism in the face of adversity, which sometimes seems the result of intelligent speculation (think of Richard CARLSON in It Came from Outer Space [1953]), and sometimes seems the result of sheer stupidity (think of Rex REASON in This Island Earth). Singularly, Marshall Thompson could bring to his best work a troubled, haunted expression, conveying a strong conviction that no matter how promising the situation might seem, somehow, everything was destined to turn out wrong. Such an attitude might have emerged naturally from his own experience of spending fifteen years as a up-and-coming star who never actually came up, until he finally garnered a few leading roles in the unprestigious venue of the low-budget science fiction film. Adding to his sense of distress must have been his awareness that, by the time it became his turn to briefly serve as the genre's hero of choice, such science fiction films tended to be pretty dreadful.

As a bright young graduate of Occidental College, with some experience in writing plays, Thompson broke into films solely because he was a handsome young man at a time when many of Hollywood's male stars were off fighting World War II. His years as a male ingenue included a supporting role as a teenage son in the forgotten fantasy The Cockeyed Miracle, but he first came to the attention of science fiction fans as the paramour of Faith DOMERGUE in the risible Cult of the Cobra, wherein he was alternately bland and annoying. Now reduced in yeoman work in television, Thompson was chosen to star in a cheap production called Fiend without a Face, the film in which he first indicated unusual skill, playing an officer investigating the menace of invisible flying brains and almost making the premise seem believable; he also served for a while as the film's uncredited director when Arthur Crabtree briefly refused to work on what he correctly suspected would be an atrocious project.  Thompson's other starring roles of the 1950s demand more discussion. In It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Thompson first polished to perfection his hurt-puppy expression as the commander of the first expedition to Mars, falsely accused of murder when no members of the relief expedition, understandably, believes his story about a ridiculous Martian monster that killed all of his crewmates. Fortunately for Marshall, said ridiculous monster then shows up on board their return flight and starts killing the crew, proving his alibi and allowing him to take over as the film's hero. He was even more effective in a lesser film, First Man into Space, as the older brother of the cocky pilot who ventures too far into outer space; properly dedicated to following all the rules, he nevertheless must endure remaining on the ground because his irresponsible brother is also a better pilot. Later, in the scene where he confronts his brother, now transformed into a ludicrous-looking monster, he not only refrains from well-deserved laughter but actually manages to briefly give the film some genuine emotional impact, which anyone watching its first hour would have deemed impossible.

His subsequent opportunities for acting in the genre, however, would not involve such stimulating challenges, as he starred in the short-lived television series World of Giants, performed perfunctorily as an astronaut in the series Men into Space, and portrayed an underwater scientist in Around the World under the Sea. None of these projects involved what had become his true passion, the wildlife of Africa, discovered while working on the film East of Kilimanjaro (1957). Seeking to escape from the sorts of roles he was getting, Thompson called upon his long-dormant writing skills and developed the story for a film about an avuncular veterinarian tending to Africa's ailing animals, Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965), which then inspired the successful television series Daktari (1966-1969). His days of snake-women, flying brains, and rubber-suited monsters behind him, Marshall Thompson had finally become a star, and had finally earned some peace of mind. It thus seems fitting that in his last decades of acting following that series' cancellation, Thompson tended to avoid science fiction and instead focused on crime dramas and family films. Knowing what he had had to endure, no one can blame him for that.

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