- Religious beliefs
Thomas Noel Rettig, more familiarly Tommy Rettig or, as an adult, Tom Rettig (December 10, 1941 – February 15, 1996), was an American child actor and computer software engineer and author. Rettig is best remembered for having portrayed the character "Jeff Miller" in the first three seasons of CBS's Lassie television series, from 1954-1957, later seen in syndicated re-runs as Jeff's Collie.
Rettig was born to a Jewish father, Elias Rettig, and a Christian mother, Rosemary Nibali, in Jackson Heights section of Queens, New York. He started his career at age six, on tour with Mary Martin in the play Annie Get Your Gun in which he played Little Jake. Read Full Bio >>
Tommy Rettig as Jeff Miller with Lassie (1955).
As Billy with Felicia Farr in The Last Wagon (1956).
Before his famous role as Jeff Miller in the first Lassie television series, Rettig also appeared in about 18 feature films including The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (written by Dr. Seuss) and River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum. Rettig later told of a warm personal friendship with Monroe, who was more reserved in the company of older males.
It was his work with a dog in The 5000 Fingers Of Dr. T. that led animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax to urge him to audition for the Lassie role, for which Weatherwax supplied the famous collies.
Rettig later told interviewers that he longed for a life as a normal teenager, and after four seasons, was able to get out of his contract. He was also critical of the treatment and compensation of child actors of his day. He reportedly received no residual payments from his work in the Lassie series although his work was syndicated and widely shown under the name Jeff's Collie.
He graduated in 1959 from University High School in Los Angeles.
As an adult, Rettig preferred to be called "Tom". He found the transition from child star to be difficult, and had several well-publicized legal entanglements relating to illegal recreational drugs (a conviction for growing marijuana on his farm and a charge for cocaine of which he was exonerated). Some years after he left acting, he became a motivational speaker, which led him while working on mailing lists to get involved in the early days of personal computers.
For the last 15 years of his life, Rettig was a very well-known database software author and expert. He was a very early employee of Ashton-Tate, and specialized in (sequentially) dBASE, Clipper, FoxBASE and finally FoxPro. (Tom Rettig's career in software engineering is not to be confused with the person of the same name who worked at Brøderbund doing sound on such projects as Carmen Sandiego and Kid Pix. That Tom Rettig is one of Thomas Noel Rettig's two sons; as their middle names differ, the son is not Tom Rettig Jr.)
Coincidentally, when Rettig moved to Marina del Rey in the late 1980s, one of his neighbors was named "Jeff Miller".
Rettig did a guest appearance in an episode of the later television series The New Lassie, with Jon Provost, which aired on October 25, 1991. The series featured appearances from two other Lassie veterans, Roddy McDowall, who had starred in the first movie Lassie Come Home (1943) and June Lockhart, who had starred in the 1945 movie Son of Lassie, and the television series (as Timmy's mother in the years after Rettig left the show).
After his death at the age of fifty-four of a heart attack, his memorial service in Marina del Rey, California was attended by Roger Clinton, Jr., the half-brother of then U.S. President Bill Clinton, and several other former child stars who were featured in a photo spread in The National Enquirer. His loss was also mourned by many in the software industry. Many computer people who read his books and articles or used Rettig's software products did not realize that he was a former child star. << Less Bio