Born Karl Oscar Tore Johansson in Sweden on October 19, 1903, B-movie legend Tor Johnson began his studio wrestling career in the 1940s as "The Swedish Angel," after doing many bit parts and uncredited appearances in films in the 1930s. By virtue of his rather frightening visage and enormous 300+ pound frame, he gained a sort of notoriety in 1950s horror and science fiction movies, especially the films of Ed Wood. Interestingly, Johnson had a longer and more successful career in Hollywood than most of Wood's other regulars, making many films and a number of appearances on TV in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Today, Tor Johnson is probably best known for his appearances in the Ed Wood classics Bride of the Monster (1955; with Bela Lugosi and Dolores Fuller) and Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959; with Gregory Walcott and Dudley Manlove). However, thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000, some of Johnson's other films have been rediscovered by cult film fans, such as The Unearthly (1957; with John Carradine, Sally Todd and Allison Hayes) and The Beast from Yucca Flats (1961; directed by Coleman Francis).

the films of tor johnson

Behind Locked Doors (1948)

Tor Johnson

Tor Johnson is sadistically tormented in a sanitarium in the film noir thriller Behind Locked Doors

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

Tor Johnson and Bob Hope

From the Paramount comedy The Lemon Drop Kid with Bob Hope

Bride of the Monster (1955)

Tor Johnson and Loretta King

Tor Johnson menaces Loretta King in Bride of the Monster

The Black Sleep (1956)

Tor Johnson and John CarradinePatricia Blair, Herbert Rudley, and Tor Johnson

From The Black Sleep. LEFT: With John Carradine. RIGHT: With Patricia Blair and Herbert Rudley

The Unearthly (1957)

The UnearthlyTor Johnson and Myron HealyTor Johnson

LEFT: Poster from the Republic horror film The Unearthly. CENTER: Tor Johnson tries to strangle Myron Healy. RIGHT: Johnson as Lobo

Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959)

Tor Johnson and Mona McKinnonTor Johnson

From Ed Wood's best known film Plan Nine from Outer Space. LEFT: With Mona McKinnon. RIGHT: Tor as the undead Inspector Clay

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

Beast of Yucca Flats

Lobby card from the film. The Beast of Yucca Flats was directed by the notorious Coleman Francis

later years

Due to his sheer bulk, Johnson had the unfortunate tendency of shattering toilet seats when he sat on them, which explains his habit of stealing toilet seats from the hotel rooms he stayed in. He also drank copious amounts of beer (usually a case at a time), and dessert for Johnson often included gallons of ice cream. Plagued by heart problems in his later years, Johnson passed away at age 67 on May 12, 1971. Tor Johnson's son, Karl, was once a policeman in San Fernando, California; in addition, he appeared in a few of his father's movies, such as The Unearthly and Plan Nine from Outer Space. Karl Johnson passed away on May 15, 1993, at age 69.

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The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961) with Anthony Cardoza; directed by Coleman Francis
Night of the Ghouls (1959) with Kenne Duncan, Duke Moore, Paul Marco, Harvey B. Dunn, and Valda Hansen; directed by Ed Wood
Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) with Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Dudley Manlove, Joanna Lee, John Breckinridge, and Lyle Talbot; directed by Ed Wood
The Unearthly (1957) with Allison Hayes, Myron Healey, Sally Todd, and John Carradine
Journey To Freedom (1957) with Eve Brent
The Black Sleep (1956) with Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, and John Carradine
Carousel (1956) with Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Cameron Mitchell, and Barbara Ruick
Bride of the Monster (aka Bride of the Atom) (1955) with Bela Lugosi and Dolores Fuller; directed by Ed Wood
Houdini (1953) with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh
The San Francisco Story (1952) with Joel McCrea and Yvonne De Carlo
Lady in the Iron Mask (1952) with Louis Hayward, Patricia Medina, Alan Hale Jr., and Steve Brodie
Dear Brat (1951) with Mona Freeman, Billy De Wolfe, Edward Arnold, Lyle Bettger, Natalie Wood, William Reynolds, and Frank Cady
The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) with Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan, Jane Darwell, Andrea King, Fred Clark, Jay C. Flippen, and William Frawley
Abbott And Costello In The Foreign Legion (1950) with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Patricia Medina, and Walter Slezak
The Reformer and The Redhead (1950) with June Allyson, Dick Powell, David Wayne, Cecil Kellaway, and Ray Collins
Alias The Champ (1949) with Robert Rockwell, Barbra Fuller, Audrey Long, and Gorgeous George
State of the Union (1948) with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Van Johnson, Angela Lansbury, and Adolphe Menjou
Behind Locked Doors (aka The Human Gorilla) (1948) with Richard Carlson
Road To Rio (1947) with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Gale Sondergaard, and Frank Faylen
Sudan (1945) with Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Turhan Bey, Andy Devine, and George Zucco
The Canterville Ghost (1944)
Lost In A Harem (1944)
Ghost Catchers (1944)
Meanest Man in the World (1943)
Swing Out The Blues (1943)
Under Two Flags (1936)
Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935)
Kid Millions (1933)

People's Court (1962)
Shirley Temple's Storybook, episode Pippi Longstocking, originally aired January 8, 1961
The Red Skelton Show (196?)
Bonanza, episode San Francisco Holiday, originally aired April 2, 1960
Peter Gunn, episode See No Evil, originally aired February 1, 1960
Adventures in Paradise, episode The Lady from South Chicago, originally aired November 2, 1959
The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, episode Dancing Mouse, originally aired December 12, 1956
You Bet Your Life (1959), the quiz show hosted by Groucho Marx. Johnson was a contestant who was quizzed on mythology
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, various episodes, series originally aired 1954-1955
You Are There, episode The Surrender of Corregidor, originally aired April 25, 1954

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Watch Tor Johnson's 1959 film Plan Nine From Outer Space

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