Sonny Tufts (Bowen Charlton Tufts)

Sonny Tufts

Bowen Charlton Tufts III (nicknamed “Sonny”) was born in Boston, Massachusetts into a prominent banking family. The Tufts family patriarch, Peter Tufts, sailed to America from Wilby, Norfolk, England in 1638. His great uncle was businessman and philanthropist Charles Tufts, for whom Tufts University is named. Sonny Tufts attended the Phillips Exeter Academy and later broke with the family banking tradition by studying opera at Yale University, where he was an editor of campus humor magazine The Yale Record, He was also a member of the Skull and Bones society and played for the Yale football team. Tufts also performed in a musical group, The Wiffenpoofs, and toured with the group in Europe. While touring in Naples, Tufts decided to study opera. He studied opera in Paris for one year and in the United States for three years. After graduating from Yale in 1935, Tufts auditioned with the Metropolitan Opera in New York but eventually worked on the Broadway stage. Sonny Tufts appeared in the stage show Who’s Who and Sing for Your Supper. 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. 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!. The film was a critical and box office hit, largely due to the three female leads: Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake. Tufts’ performance was praised by critics and the role served as a launching pad for Tufts’ career. After the release of the film, Tufts received 1700 fan letters a week and was named “The Find of 1943.” The following year, Tufts was cast opposite Olivia de Havilland in the comedy Government Girl. That same year, he was voted the number one “Star of Tomorrow” by exhibitors.

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. That film, entitled I Love a Soldier, was released in 1945. During World War II, Tufts’ popularity continued to rise principally because, due to an old college football injury, he was one of the few male actors not serving overseas in the war. By the early 1950s, Tufts’ popularity began to wane and his career began to decline. In 1953, Tufts was cast opposite Barbara Payton in the low budget comedy film Run for the Hills. Later that year, he co-starred in another low budget film, Cat-Women of the Moon. Tufts’ career briefly rebounded when he was cast in a small role in the comedy The Seven Year Itch, starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe. In 1956, Tufts had a supporting role in drama Come Next Spring for Republic Pictures. Tuft’s career decline was compounded by his alcoholism and his off-screen antics. In February 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 Tuft for $26,000 claiming the bite left a three inch scar. Von later settled for $600. 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 he and two friends were visiting her home. Atkins later dropped the lawsuit against Tufts. After filming The Parson and the Outlaw in 1957, Tufts retreated to a ranch in Texas. He returned to acting in 1963 with a guest appearance on The Virginian. His final onscreen role was in the 1968 television movie Land’s End. In 1938, Tufts married Spanish dancer Barbara Dare. They separated in 1949 and Dare filed for divorce in 1951 citing Tufts’ excessive drinking as the reason for the breakup of their marriage. Dare was granted an interlocutory divorce on October 21, 1951 which was finalized the following year. On June 4, 1970, Tufts died of pneumonia at age 58 at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. Tufts’ private funeral was held on June 7 in Beverly Hills after which he was buried in Munroe Cemetery in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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Born

  • July, 16, 1911
  • USA
  • Boston, Massachusetts

Died

  • June, 04, 1970
  • USA
  • Santa Monica, California

Cause of Death

  • pneumonia

Cemetery

  • Munroe Cemetery
  • Lexington, Massachusetts
  • USA

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