January 15, 1948
Montreal in Quebec, Canada
|Occupation||Actor:Jody O'Connell on Buckskin ; Writer|
Nolan was born Bernard Girouard in Montreal, Canada, to parents of French and Irish descent. His family moved to Beverly, Massachusetts, where he immediately started dance classes. His television debut was as Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VIII, on NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame. The jug-eared lad often portrayed young boys with afflictions, such as a crippled youngster on an episode of My Friend Flicka (CBS and later NBC) or an asthmatic on NBC's Medic, the first television medical series.
At the age of ten, Tommy was cast as Jody O'Connell in the NBC Western series Buckskin, which ran for thirty-nine episodes from July 3, 1958 to September 14, 1959. It started as a summer replacement series for Tennessee Ernie Ford and was held over after a month's hiatus in October 1958. It was repeated in the summers of 1959 and 1965.
Sally Brophy played Jody's widowed mother, Annie O'Connell, who ran the boarding house in the fictitious town of Buckskin, Montana. Mike Road played the marshal, Tom Sellers. The program was unique in that it was a nonviolent Western seen from a child's perspective, with Tommy narrating each episode while sitting on his corral fence and playing his harmonica. The program focused on the interesting individuals who passed through Buckskin in the heyday of the "Old West". The series was successful enough for a spin-off comic book with Nolan's character, and his autograph was sought at parades, conventions, and other public gatherings.
After Buckskin (which continued in repeats on an irregular basis until 1965), Nolan appeared in other Western series, such as CBS's Rawhide and Gunsmoke, ABC's The Rifleman, and Wagon Train (NBC and ABC). He had a recurring role on CBS's Lassie as well. Even before Buckskin, Nolan had unsuccessfully sought the lead role in Circus Boy but lost to Micky Dolenz, later of The Monkees. He was unable to find another regular series, and he ended the first half of his acting career with a small part in The Moonshine War (1970). Nolan has penned articles for Playboy, the Los Angeles Times, and the Village Voice, among other publications.
Tom Nolan later had minor roles in Up the Creek (1984), School Spirit (1985), Pretty Woman (1990), The Thing Called Love (1993), and White Man's Burden (1995). His most recent role was as a valet in Batman Begins (2005).
After Buckskin, the then 12-year-old Nolan summed up his situation accordingly:
"They teach you to succeed, but you're unprepared for failure. You're led to expect fame, but no one tells you about the rejection waiting at the end of the trip. Something fantastic had been given to me, then taken away, leaving a big hollow place at the center of my twelve-year-old life."