Tor was a big guy, with a big heart. Tor Johnson (born Karl Oscar Tore Johansson) was born October 19, 1903, in Sweden. Most of his adult life, he was a professional wrestler. Tor started appearing (uncredited, or bit parts) in movies as early as 1934. He was in 31 movies, usually as “Weightlifter” or “Strongman.” Later, he got larger roles with character names. Tor was in the Bing Crosby – Bob Hope movie Road to Rio (1947) as Samson; and had a part in Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950) as Abou Ben. Contrary to how it was depicted in the semi-documentary “Ed Wood,” that Ed approached Tor and asked him if he ever fancied the notion of becoming an actor (and starting his film career), Ed worked with Tor towards the end of his movie career. Ed Wood got Tor to portray Lobo in Bride of the Monster (1956). After appearing in 3 other movies, Ed Wood cast Tor in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). Then Ed had Tor reprise his role of Lobo for Night of the Ghouls (1959) — in that movie, Paul Marco (Kelton the Cop) had a full load in the prop gun he fired at Tor, sparks hit Tor’s arms, which by reflex hit Paul, knocking him unconscious in real life; Tor felt bad about that, but everybody knew it was just a case of the big guy not knowing his own strength. A friend and cohort of Ed’s (and also a writer, director and producer in his own right), was Anthony Cardoza. Ed lived in an apartment on Yucca Street (nicknamed “Yucca Flats”), and in 1961, Anthony cast Tor Johnson in a starring role in his low budget movie The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961). This movie was filmed silent, had dubbed-in sound effects, voiced-over narration, and killed off Tor’s movie career once and for all (and Tor was only paid $300). However, Tor had somewhat of a TV career in the 1960s, appearing on “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx, several appearances on “The Red Skelton Show,” and even doing a number of TV commercials. Costars spoke fondly of Tor, remembering, “Tor had such warmth! He was so cooperative– just a lovely man. As you know, he was a former wrestler … he would go and have drinks with his opponents after a wrestling match.” And, he lived large. Friends spoke of his gracious wife Greta who made great Swedish dinners, along with desserts consisting of her homemade ice cream with strawberries, bananas, coconuts and whip cream.Tor was 6’3″ tall and rumored to be about 385lbs. Little wonder that his son, Karl, grew up to be big and strong, and became a Lieutenant with the San Fernando police. And, some friends would chuckle as they recalled that, as big as he was, Tor drove a midget foreign car which was “not much bigger than he was.” Tor died on May 12, 1971, in San Fernando, CA, of a heart ailment; he was 67.
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