Jack Grimes (April 1, 1926 - March 10, 2009) was an American voice and radio actor who played Jimmy Olsen in the last three years of The Adventures of Superman radio program, the 1966 Filmation TV series The New Adventures of Superman, and the 1967 anime,Speed Racer.
Grimes was born in New York City. His acting career began at age seven, during the depression, when he helped earn money for his family. He appeared as Jackie Grimes in the Broadway play, The Old Maid, which won a Pulitzer Prize and ran for ten months in New York. It then went on tour for another eleven months.
Grimes worked on radio, beginning with the CBS program, "Let's Pretend." He was also a regular on "The Fred Allen Show", "The Philip Morris Playhouse", "Second Husband", "CBS Radio Mystery Theater", and "Death Valley Days." By age 12, he was appearing on between 35 to 40 radio shows a week.
In 1944, he moved to California to work for Universal. His credits include "Fairytale Murder", "Lady on a Train", and "Week-End at the Waldorf". In the early 1950s, he switched totelevision. His credits include "Alcoa Presents", "Love of Life", "The Aldrich Family", "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet", "Maude", "On the Rocks", and "All in the Family".
In 1962 Grimes and Peter Fernandez worked together on a series of records for MGM. Five years later, Fernandez hired him to do the voices of Sparky and Chim Chim on Speed Racer.
Grimes died in Queens, New York in 2009 at the age of 82.
Jack Grimes was born on April 1, 1926 in Manhattan. His acting career began at age seven, when he joined the cast of a hit Broadway play, “The Old Maid.” Jack later appeared in the Broadway flop, “Stork Mad” (1936), the more successful “Excursion” (1937) and another flop, “Western Waters” (also 1937) before abandoning the stage. He moved on in 1938 to the relatively new medium of network radio, doing children's parts in what grew to over 12,000 radio broadcasts during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Even as an adult, Jack almost always played children and teenagers, and was usually billed as “Jackie Grimes.” Some of the radio shows on which he was a regular included Let's Pretend and Death Valley Days (1930-45), Second Husband, Phillip Morris Playhouse (1948-53) and Fred Allen (1932-49). It was not unusual for Jack to appear on 40 different programs per week during the 1940s. Of Irish descent, he grew up to have a very slender build and a height of only 5' 2", making him a natural for teenage parts in both movies and early TV. I recently listened to a Dimension X radio broadcast from 1950, an adaptation of a Robert Bloch short story, “Almost Human,” in which Grimes provides the voice of a gigantic robot, which in the course of the half-hour broadcast mentally changes from a toddler to a love-sick teenager; Grimes suggests that gradual evolution expertly with his voice alone.
In 1944, Jack enlisted in the Air Force, and was very quickly discharged because of his unusually small build and height. That year, he went on to Hollywood and worked in three films made by Universal Pictures, namely River Gang, Lady on a Train, and Weekend at the Waldorf (1945). In 1949, after returning to New York, he married actress Joan Farrell, and began working in various live television series such as Love of Life (1951), The Aldrich Family (1952-53), Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (1954-55), and later Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (1959).
Actor Jan Merlin had left Tom Corbett, Space Cadet for good at the end of its 1953-4 DuMont run, to try his luck in Hollywood. It was decided to invent a new Polaris-unit cadet, instead of casting another actor in Merlin's role of “Roger Manning.” The chief writer for the program, Albert Aley, had known Jack Grimes since his earliest days in radio and Let's Pretend, and invented the part of new cadet “T. J. Thistle” for Grimes. Thistle was a practical joker, a screw-up and had a large chip on his shoulder stemming from the fact that he was much smaller and weaker than all the other Space Cadets... “the Mighty Mite,” as he was dubbed in one of the earliest broadcasts featuring him. Thistle did not appear in the syndicated Tom Corbett newspaper strip, or in the Tom Corbett Dell comics series, since the run of both had ended before his character was invented. He also does not appear in any but the last (#6, The Robot Rocket) of the Grossett and Dunlap series of Tom Corbett juvenile novels, as written by the mysterious “Carey Rockwell.” However, he did appear in the three Prize Publications Tom Corbett comic books issued in 1955. Most of the young fans of the program that we have heard from in later years greatly disliked Thistle and consequently Grimes; in any event, the series continued on NBC for only 6 months before cancellation. It was never revived. Jack returned to Hollywood, where most TV series were originating after the demise of live TV in 1956.
I am sorry that in my conversations with Frankie Thomas (Tom Corbett) I never thought to ask him what his off-camera relationship with Jack Grimes was... they would have had a lot in common since both men had begun their careers doing child parts in Broadway plays, and then gone to Hollywood. Frankie did bring up Jack on his own several times, telling the story of how Jack got hired to play the third Polaris unit cadet, and several times mentioning Jack's unusual ability to keep track of time. “He seemed to have a clock in his head,” Frankie told me about Jack. “One of my jobs during the live broadcasts was to keep an eye on the control booth and alert the other cast members if the director signaled we were running behind or ahead... usually it was behind. Well, Jack always knew. I don't know how he knew, but he did always know. When he sped up his lines, it meant we were running behind.”
In 1962, Jack and actor-writer Peter Fernandez crossed paths again while working at MGM Studios in Culver City. They had initially met in their younger radio days, but this teaming was the first in many years. The studio hired Grimes to direct and produce records and he hired Peter to do scripts. In 1967, Jack got a phone call from Peter, who told him that he was adapting a Japanese cartoon for American TV and needed a fourth actor to do the various voice parts, although he only had a budget for three. Jack and Peter split a single salary. The cartoon series was the legendary Speed Racer. It's a bit ironic that one of the voice parts Jack played was that of Speed Racer's pet, the chimpanzee Chim-Chim, because according to Frankie Thomas, in the famous NBC broadcast in which the Polaris crew had to deal with chimpanzee J. Fred Muggs loose on the Polaris set, Muggs interacted well with all the cast except Jack, whom he instantly hated! In 1968, Jack voiced Professor Fumble in the less successful animated series Marine Boy.
Grimes was briefly called back to work in film roles, beginning with 1969's Pendulum, starring George Peppard, in which Grimes portrayed a bellhop. The last Hollywood film he worked in was Cold Turkey (1971). In later TV work, Grimes appeared in Maude, On the Rocks and All in the Family. Jack was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Mr. Whitehead the undertaker, in the latter series.
Jack not only appeared in some of the earliest ongoing network radio series that had begun about 1930, but he was also a regular cast member in the last of all radio dramatic series: from 1974 to 1982, he was featured in 49 suspenseful episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. His voice work continued, on Star Blazers (1979), again working with Speed Racer veterans Corinne Orr and Peter Fernandez. As TV jobs dwindled away in the early 1980s, Grimes looked elsewhere. In 1986, he began working in public relations for a law firm in New York. He retired in 1991 and for years afterward resided in New York state with his family, near his grandchildren. Jack Grimes died March 10, 2009.