Tom Drake (born Alfred Sinclair Alderdice, August 5, 1918 – August 11, 1982) was an American actor. Drake made films starting in 1940 and continuing until the mid-1970s, and also made TV acting appearances.
Early life and career
Drake was born in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Iona Preparatory School and graduated from Mercersburg Academy.
He was excused from serving in World War II due to heart problems. Despite this limitation, he did act in British training films.
Billed as Alfred Alderdice, Drake appeared on Broadway in Run Sheep Run (1938) and Clean Beds (1939).
After appearing in the film The Howards of Virginia (billed as Richard Alden), he got his break after starring in the 1942 Broadway smash Janie, after which he was signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
MGM started Drake in a support role in Two Girls and a Sailor (1944). He was third billed in a “B”, Maisie Goes to Reno (1944) then had small roles in some “A” pictures, Marriage Is a Private Affair (1944) and Mrs. Parkington (1944).
He was Judy Garland’s leading man in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) playing John Truitt, the boy next door. This was the role for which Drake would be most identified.
MGM promoted him to leading roles with This Man’s Navy (1944) co starring Wallace Beery.
MGM gave Drake the star role in The Green Years (1946), which was a huge hit. It was followed by Courage of Lassie (1946), another big hit, and Faithful in My Fashion (1946), which lost money.
Universal borrowed him to play Deanna Durbin’s leading man in I’ll Be Yours (1947).
Back at MGM Drake was a support in The Beginning or the End (1947) and Cass Timberlane (1947), and teamed with Beery again in Alias a Gentleman (1948). He did another Lassie film, Hills of Home (1948) and played composer Richard Rodgers in the loosely-based biography Words and Music (1948). Cass Timberlane was popular but the other films all lost money.
Drake was borrowed by Fox to play the romantic lead in Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) then at MGM was in Scene of the Crime (1949) with Van Johnson. He made The Great Rupert (1950) for George Pal.
Drake began appearing on episodes of TV shows like The Ford Theatre Hour, Suspense, Lights Out, Tales of Tomorrow, The Unexpected
He went to Columbia for Never Trust a Gambler (1951) and to Allied Artists for Disc Jockey (1951). He appeared in F.B.I. Girl (1951), and Sangaree 91953).
After television jobs for actors transitioned from live telecasts from New York to shows that were filmed in California, Drake had roles in the CBS series Lassie, NBC’s Cimarron City, ABC’s 77 Sunset Strip, ABC’s The Rebel, CBS’ Perry Mason, ABC’s Combat!, ABC’s Land of the Giants, Land of the Giants, NBC’s ADAM-12, ABC’s The Streets of San Francisco and NBC’s Banacek.
He continued to appear in features, starring in The Cyclops, Date with Disaster (1957) (a rare lead), and Raintree County (1957). He played the leader of a gang of criminals in Warlock (1959) and was in Money, Women and Guns (1958). He also had a minor role in the film The Singing Nun (1966), playing Ed Sullivan’s producer Mr. Fitzpatrick.
He completed his last acting job in 1975, according to his obituary in the Chicago Tribune.
Tom Drake was married to Isabelle Dunn during the 1940s.
Drake was a Roman Catholic and a lifelong Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.
Drake died of lung cancer at Torrance Memorial Hospital in Torrance, California (Los Angeles County) on August 11, 1982.
His body is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.