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Overview for Karl Swenson
Karl Swenson

Karl Swenson

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BIOGRAPHY

Karl Swenson, a burly character actor of Swedish descent, began his long career in radio in the 1930s and 1940s as well as playing the lead in Arthur Miller's first produced play on Broadway, "The Man Who Had All the Luck" in 1944. Amongst his radio hits were "The Adventures of Father Brown," "The Inner Sanctum Mysteries," and a stint with Orson Welles's "The Mercury Theatre on the Air." He came late to film (he was near 50) when he landed his first credited role in "Four Boys and a Gun" in 1957. He was mainly typecast as rugged men in westerns throughout his TV and movie career, most notably in "Gunsmoke," "North to Alaska," "Have Gun Will Travel," and "Bonanza," where he met Michael Landon, who would later cast him as the town lumberman for "Little House on the Prairie." Swenson was the voice of Merlin in Disney's 1963 animated production of "The Sword in the Stone" and was married to stage and radio actress Joan Tompkins until his death in 1978.

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