Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Tucker was born in Plainfield, Indiana. He served in the United States Cavalry and then performed in burlesque theater. While on vacation in California in 1940, he began auditioning for movie roles. He was cast in The Westerner (1940), which starred Gary Cooper. He stood out in a fight scene with Cooper and was signed to Columbia Pictures.
In 1941, he played the lead in Emergency Landing , and he did a number of supporting roles afterward. From 1942 to 1945, Tucker served in World War II. After returning from the war, he resumed his acting career, appearing in the classic 1946 film The Yearling.
In 1948, Tucker left Columbia and signed with Republic Pictures. The next year, he made his breakthrough in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), as Corporal Thomas, a soldier with a score to settle with John Wayne's Sergeant Stryker. After this, Tucker played the lead in action films throughout the 1950s, including Rock Island Trail (1950), California Passage (1950), The Abominable Snowman (1957), and The Crawling Eye (1958). Also in 1958, he played the second lead in Auntie Mame, which was the highest grossing film of the year. It also marked another turning point in his career, as he showed a flair for light comedy under the direction of Morton Da Costa .
Tucker then was cast as Professor Harold Hill by Da Costa in the touring version of The Music Man, and he played the role 2,008 times over the next five years. Following his "Music Man" run, Tucker starred in the short-lived Broadway play Fair Game for Lovers (1964) and then turned to television for his best known role, starring as Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke in F Troop (1965 - 1967). Though the network run lasted only two seasons, the series has been in constant syndication since, reaching three generations of viewers.
Following F Troop, Tucker returned to films in character parts (Barquero and Chisum , both 1970) and to television in numerous guest starring roles. His final film, Thunder Run (1986), cast him in one last action lead before his death from lung cancer. Tucker is interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
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