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Tor Johnson was born October 19, 1903 in Sweden, the son of Karl J. Johansson and Lovissa Petersson. He was twenty-five when he arrived in California in 1928 and he moved to Los Angeles County three years later. This move to California may have had something to do with the rheumatic heart disease from which, his death certificate says, he suffered for the last forty years of his life. He was married by this time to one Greta Johnson. When or why he shortened his own name to Johnson could not be found, but Tor then turned his hand to wrestling, which is how he supported himself when he wasn’t doing films.It must have been before 1935, however, for in that year he played a wrestler named Tusoff in his first billed film appearance, the Paramount release of a W.C.Fields movie, “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”, that concerned the vicissitudes Fields experiences in simply trying to reach the wrestling match. He popped up occasionally in various films over the next fifteen years, not always with his name in the credits. He can be seen in a Columbia musical, Swing Out the Blues (1943), an Olsen and Johnson comedy, The Ghost Catchers (1944), an Abbott & Costello epic Lost in A Harem (1944) and The Canterville Ghost (1944) a film that starred Charles Laughton as a 17th century ghost.Though he did a few films in the early fifties, most notably Abbott & Costello in the Foreign Legion, his real winning streak came in 1956. Between 56 and 59, he did seven films and, if one counts Carousel, in which he had a tiny role, all but one of them were fantasy pictures. The Black Sleep (1956) saw him as the blind, grunting product of an experimental failure on the part of Dr. Joel Cadmen (Basil Rathbone) who was searching for a way to bring his wife out of the affliction used as the film’s title. In Bride of the Monster (1956), he was Lobo, the unfortunate result of Bela Lugosi’s atomic experiment. The Unearthly (1957) continued the typecasting. This time the mad professor was played by John Carradine. He was searching for the secret of eternal youth and Johnson was a living casualty.He actually had a few lines and a sane character for the first few minutes of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), but he quickly became the walking dead experimental guinea-pig for Plan Nine (an alien force’s program providing for the resurrection of the dead to take over the Earth). The third picture did for Ed Wood was Night of the Ghouls. His last film, The Beast Of Yucca Flats, first distributed in 1961, was still in release in 1972. The director – screenwriter was Coleman Francis. Tor again played the Beast of the title. He had first billing in this tale of a man who, having been caught in a nuclear explosion, becomes a monster. Johnson wore no make up.In his last years, Johnson made a few personal appearances at supermarket openings, etc in his Lobo costume from Bride of the Monster, a leather vest and a ragged pair of pants. He also made an appearance on an old episode of Groucho Marx’s You bet your Life quiz show. As a contestant, he was dressed in a suit. Groucho asked Johnson to scare him. Tor raised his hands above his head in preparation for his well known Lobo pounce and roared. Groucho scurried away.He retired to his home at 15129 Lakeside Street in Sylmar, a community 30 miles outside of Los Angeles. He began to develop a more serious heart condition in 1968 and died May 12, 1971 at 10-14 am in San Fernando Valley Hospital in nearby San Fernando. Cause of death was listed as congestive Heart failure. He was 67. He was buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall California.


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