Timmy Martin (television character)

Timmy Martin (television character)

Infobox character
name = Timmy Martin

caption = Jon Provost as Timmy Martin
first = "The Runaway" (fourth season, 1957)
last = "The New Lassie" (Syndicated series, 1989-1990)
cause = Cancellation of character ("Lassie") • Cancellation of series {"The New Lassie")
gender = Male
age =
born =
death =
occupation = Farm boy • School boy • 4-H member • Cub Scout
family = Jed and Abby Clausen (aged aunt and uncle) • Ellen, George, and Jeff Miller (foster family) • Ruth and Paul Martin (adoptive parents) • Lassie (companion animal)
spouse =
children =
episode = 219
portrayer = Jon Provost
creator = Robert Maxwell • Jack Wrather

Timmy Martin is a fictional character portrayed by Jon Provost in the long-running, Emmy Award winning television series "Lassie" (1954-1973). When Timmy enters the show in the fourth season (1957), he becomes the foster child of farm woman Ellen Miller, her father-in-law George Miller, and her teenage son, Jeff. In the middle of the fourth season, Timmy is adopted by Paul Martin and his wife, Ruth, who purchase the Miller farm.

Once the Timmy years of the show were launched, "Lassie" enjoyed its highest ratings, with Timmy appearing in all 219 episodes between his debut and his final appearance (1964). Provost briefly reprised the character as an adult Timmy in the syndicated series, "The New Lassie" (1989-1990). Timmy appeared in comic books, novels, and other spinoff materials related to the show. Jon Provost was nominated in 2003 for a TV Land award connected to his participation in "Lassie". Selected Timmy episodes (including all the Timmy and Lassie Christmas episodes) are available on VHS and DVD.

Role in "Lassie"

In the opener of the fourth season, [Episode: "The Runaway"] fictional Calverton residents Ellen Miller, her son Jeff, and her father in law, George "Gramps" Miller (George Cleveland) discover seven-year-old tattered runaway Timmy hiding in their barn. Timmy has fled his aged and ill relatives, Abby and Jed Clausen of Olive Bridge, believing he is a burden on their slim resources. Ellen contacts the Clausens and a social worker, and all agree Timmy would benefit from a summer on the farm.cite episode |title=The Runaway |episodelink= |series=Lassie |serieslink=Lassie (1954 TV series) |airdate=1957-09-08 |season=4 |number=104] cite book |last=Collins |first=Ace |title=Lassie: A Dog's Life |date=1993-10-01 |publisher=Penguin Books |location=New York |isbn=978-0140231830|oclc=29878000 ]

In the fourth season episode "Transition", Ellen sells the farm to a young couple, Ruth and Paul Martin (Cloris Leachman and Jon Shepodd) after the death of "Gramps". The Martins adopt Timmy, and Jeff leaves Lassie on the farm when he moves to the city, knowing the dog could never adjust to life in a busy city.cite episode |title=Transition |episodelink= |series=Lassie |serieslink=Lassie (1954 TV series) |airdate=1957-12-01 |season=4 |number=116] Leachman and Shepodd would finish the fourth season and then be dropped. Their characters would be played thereafter by Hugh Reilly and June Lockhart until dropped in the first episode of the eleventh season when the entire show was overhauled and Lassie became the companion animal of a team of forestry service workers.

In the fourth season episode, "The Ring", Paul's uncle Petrie (George Chandler) joins the cast. Timmy takes a dislike to him, but Petrie fashions a ring with Lassie's image upon it and Timmy is won over. Petrie is an imaginative man, telling stories about giants and fairies, singing and playing the guitar, and calling square dances to the tunes of his fiddle. He encourages Timmy to have an imaginative life.cite episode |title=The Ring |episodelink= |series=Lassie |serieslink=Lassie (1954 TV series) |airdate=1958-01-19 |season=4 |number=123] The ring became a Campbell's Soup premium with 77,000 being distributed to fans.cite episode |title=The Pony |episodelink= |series=Lassie |serieslink=Lassie (1954 TV series) |airdate=1958-02-09 |season=4 |number=126] Petrie left the show in the fifth season.

In 1963, the multi-part episode, "The Journey" was edited into a feature film called "Lassie's Great Adventure". The show's three principal human stars appeared in their well known roles. In the film, Timmy and Lassie are swept away in a carnival hot air balloon which finally descends far from home in the Canadian wilderness. The two travelers have several adventures before being rescued by the Mounties. Ruth's role is confined to tearfully worrying about Timmy and finding comfort in Paul's arms. The couple fly to the wilderness to be at hand when Timmy is found. Ruth's image appeared on film posters and lobby cards. The episode was the only episode filmed in color during the Ruth Martin seasons.

As the "Lassie" 1964 season approached, Jon Provost was a fourteen-year-old with his contract up for a three-year renewal. Provost however did not look forward to playing Timmy Martin until the age of seventeen, describing the role as a "vacuum" and stating, "The character wasn't changing. If they had let him grow up a little, maybe I would have wanted to stay on. I knew that I wasn't going to sign up for another three years, and my parents were behind me all they way."

Stars Lockhart, Reilly, and Andy Clyde received their notices, with producer Bob Golden telling the press they'd done all the "boy and his dog" stories possible. With only Provost and producers knowing the real reasons for the show changes, speculation among the cast hinted that the decision to clean house was based on money. Lockhart was quoted as saying Provost's mother wanted too much money, and Reilly later stated that the producers' decision was based upon trading four advanced salaries for [Robert Bray's] starting salary.

Associate producer Bonita Granville Wrather kept the audience guessing through the summer of 1964 about the show's future by stating, "We have built up such an adult audience; we are looking for stories with a wider scope. That's what our whole purpose will be in making any change that people might think we're making...our ratings have jumped in the past two years and it's because we do new things."

Without a boy in the cast as a principal character, producers reworked the show from a different angle. Several episodes which featured Lassie in the wilds [Episode: "The Odyssey"] [Episode: "The Journey"] had proven popular with audiences. Jack Wrather and his associates decided to take Lassie off the farm and send her into the wilderness with a Forest Ranger who had previously appeared on the show, [Episode: "Disappearance"] Corey Stuart, played by Gary Cooper look-alike Robert Bray. Lassie would become the companion, not of boys, but of rugged, outdoorsy men sometimes working in dangerous places and situations.

Producers sent the Martin family to Australia where Paul would teach agriculture. Lockhart commented wryly, "We were supposed to go over there so that Paul could show the Australians how to grow things. We hadn't had a successful bean crop in six seasons. What could they possibly learn from us?" Lassie's three human companions then made their last appearances in the first part of the opening three part episode of the tenth season, "The Wayfarers" (1964). [Episode: "The Wayfarers"] Lassie was forced to remain in the States due to Australia's strict quarantine regulations, and, though the dog would become the companion animal of a succession of forestry workers and see several seasons of new adventures, Timmy Martin would never be seen, heard, or referenced again on the show.

Conception and creation

Timmy Martin was created by the show's owner Jack Wrather and producer Robert Maxwell as the show's fourth season approached. Wrather had purchased the show from Maxwell and anticipated a long and successful life for his $3,250,000 Emmy-winning investment but Tommy Rettig, the fifteen-year-old child actor portraying Jeff Miller in the series, wanted to leave the show after a three year stint. Ellen Miller portrayer Jan Clayton wanted to return to theater and wanted out of the show as well.

Wrather and his associates were concerned that Rettig, a young car-driving teen, was growing too old to be the featured performer in a boy-and-his-dog story. Executives quietly reworked the show. With a new storyline waiting in the wings, Wrather's wife and associate producer Bonita Granville Wrather personally selected Jon Provost for the role of Timmy, naming the character after her mother, "Timmie". Provost was the only actor considered for the role. The Timmy character debuted in the fourth season opener, "The Runaway" and was an instant hit with audiences.cite book |last=Provost |first=Jon |authorlink=Jon Provost |co-author=Jacobson, Laurie |title=Timmy's in the Well: The Jon Provost Story |date=2007-11-01 |publisher=Cumberland House |location=Nashville, Tennessee |isbn=978-0140231830 |oclc=154674404]


Timmy is a Christian; he attends church, prays at his bedside, and, in one episode "Lassie's Gift of Love", sings "Silent Night" as a solo in church on Christmas Eve. In a 1957 episode titled "The Cub Scout", Timmy joins the cub scouts while his mother becomes a den mother. Timmy bicycles mornings to a one room schoolhouse and is involved in 4-H projects. With Lassie and his mother, he travels to the Grand Canyon and the United States Air Force Academy.

Timmy's friends include Scott Richards (Kelly Junge, Jr., 1957) and Boomer Bates (Todd Ferrell, 1958-1959), a chubby boy hired to recreate the Jeff-Porky friendship of the early Miller seasons. When both boys were dropped, Timmy never had another steady "pal" on the show. Classmate Wilhelmina "Willy" Brewster (Linda Wrather, 1957-1961, daughter of the show's producers Jack Wrather and Bonita Granville Wrather) made several appearances.

In 1959, veteran actor and comedian Andy Clyde was cast in the show's "grandfatherly" role of Cully Wilson, an eccentric farmer, nature lover, and Martin family neighbor. Timmy and Cully were scripted into many adventures together, and became one of Timmy's several adult friends that included Ed Washburne (Dick Foran), veterinarian Doc Weaver (Arthur Space), Jenny (Florence Lake), the telephone operator, and Sheriff Miller (Robert Foulk).

Timmy showed concern for environmental issues and the plight of animals. As the series progressed and environmental issues became a real-life concern across America, producers introduced the subject into the show at the request of the United States Forestry Service. Timmy spearheads a classroom tree planting project called Operation Woodland, he traps and relocates, (rather than kills) the beavers wreaking havoc with a local waterway, builds bluebird nesting boxes, and feeds wildlife during severe winter weather.


The highest rankings in the Neilsen rankings for "Lassie" were the Martin family years: #24 in 1957, #22 in 1958, #15 in 1959, #15 in 1961, #21 in 1962, #13 in 1963, and #17 in 1964. The only year the show did not climb into the top twenty-five was 1960, when it ran opposite "Walt Disney Presents" on ABC and "Shirley Temple Theatre" on NBC. With the departure of the Martin family in the eleventh season, the show began a steady decline in ratings.

Jon Provost received a 2003 TV Land Favorite Pet Human Relationship Award nomination for "Lassie" (1954). The actor has also received a Star on the Walk of Fame (Television) at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard, and, in 1990, a Young Artists Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award. Long after the show's cancellation, Provost's Keds were placed on display in the Smithsonian Institution's television collections.


Photographic and painted images of Jon Provost as Timmy Martin wearing his red-and-white gingham checked shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers were frequently used to promote a variety of merchandise marketed during Timmy years of the show. Provost as Timmy appeared on the covers of Whitman novels, Dell comic books, Campbell's Soup labels and in the soup company's television commercials. A complete line of boys' wear -- shirts, pants, sweaters, ties, and more -- bore the label: Jon Provost, Timmy of the "Lassie" series.

Impact on popular culture

"Timmy's in the well!" became a popular catchphrase years after the show's cancellation in reference to the many show situations in which Timmy's safety and welfare were placed in jeopardy. Although Timmy never fell into a well on the show, Jon Provost chose the phrase as the title for his 2007 memoirs, "Timmy's in the Well: The Jon Provost Story". Provost points out that Timmy fell into abandoned mine shafts, off cliffs, into rivers, lakes and quicksand, but never fell into a well.

Appearances in other media

The character Timmy Martin was reprised for the 1989 syndicated series "The New Lassie". Provost returned to play the role of Timmy, who was now an adult who went by the name Steve McCullough. In the seventh episode of the series June Lockhart also reprises her role as Ruth Martin, and viewers are told that Timmy was never properly adopted by the Martins. As such he was left behind when Paul and Ruth emigrated to Australia at the end of the original "Lassie" causing him to feel extremely bitter towards the Martins, and changed to using his real first name of Steve instead of his middle name Timmy, and took on his new adoptive parents last name. At the end of the episode, he is able to reconciled with his former adoptive mother.


External links

* [http://www.jonprovost.com/ The Official Jon Provost Website]

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