Timmy tells all in his book about the TV show ‘Lassie’
June 6, 2007
Uh oh, Timmy’s stuck in the well again. How did he fall in this time? Go get help, Lassie!
Not to ruin things for you, but all those jokes about Timmy falling down the well, and Lassie having to save him? Never happened. In the seven years that Jon Provost played Timmy on the “Lassie” TV series, he never fell down a well once.
Actually, the only main character in the “Lassie” series who fell down a well was Lassie herself, in Season 17’s “Well of Love.”
Nice going, Lassie.
Provost addresses this misconception, and other stuff, in his new autobiography, “Timmy’s In The Well,” which is scheduled to hit shelves next month. The book celebrates the 50th anniversary of his role as Timmy in the television series, which he did from 1957 to 1964.
Possibly the human most associated with Lassie, Provost was appearing recently at the SuperCon Convention in San Jose, signing autographs and reminiscing about his days as Timmy.
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“Some of that was a great time, some of it not so great,” said Provost, 57. “But I can say that Lassie and I got along really, really well. There were three collies that played Lassie during the time I was in the series; the third one for the final five years. That’s the one I liked the best. We really bonded.”
It’s hard to believe that Timmy Martin is closing in on 60, but there you have it.
“It was kind of a different time then for child actors,” he said. “For one thing, schooling wasn’t as strictly enforced. I remember my teacher on the lot shortchanged me about an hour a day on my schooling. They did it to get more work out of me on the set. You couldn’t get away with that today I don’t think.”
A typical “Lassie” episode usually centered on the lustrous-coated canine rescuing Timmy, or his animal friends, from some sort of peril on the family farm. Timmy was always getting into trouble out in the wilderness — it seemed as if his parents, while well meaning, didn’t have the energy to supervise him adequately, or at all.
Here’s Timmy being menaced by a mountain lion. Here’s Timmy pinned under a large branch, or being pecked by a large, aggressive goose. And there always seemed to be a poisonous snake.
Now here’s Lassie, racing home to explain things to Timmy’s folks. We never understood why it took so long for the adults to follow Lassie. “What is it, girl? Is it Timmy? Is Timmy in trouble? Do you want us to follow you?”
Of course Timmy’s in trouble! Look, you people know the drill by now. Lassie shows up alone, something bad is going down in the woods. Get off your butts, fire up the pickup and follow Lassie. It’s trouble, people!
Sheesh. Lassie doesn’t need to play charades every freakin’ week.
Here’s another thing about the “Lassie” series that we never quite understood. The show began as “Jeff’s Collie,” and starred Tommy Rettig as the boy. After a couple of seasons, Tommy’s family adopted a younger boy, Timmy (Provost). After four seasons, Jeff’s family moved, and sold the farm – apparently with Lassie and Timmy as part of the deal. Because in season four, Timmy has new parents, and Lassie’s still there. But Tommy and all the other actors are gone.
That lasts through Season 11, when Lassie is then adopted by forest rangers. The series ended in 1971.
Lassie goes back much further, of course. It was in 1938 that British-American author Eric Knight created the collie character in his short story “Lassie Come Home,” which was first published by The Saturday Evening Post. A novel followed in 1940, and Lassie was off and running — to the movies, various live and animated television series, a series of comic books and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Having outgrown the Timmy role in 1964, Provost did some further acting, including a role with Kurt Russell in the movie “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.” By the time he was 18 he decided to quit show business and go to college, graduating with a psychology degree. He worked for a time in special education and in real estate, and lives now in Santa Rosa.
“Overall, it was a great time, a fun time,” Provost said of his time on the series. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
— Contact Rick Chandler at RChandler@TahoeDailyTribune.com, or (530) 541-3880, ext. 219.