Of Swedish descent, burly, light-haired character actor Karl Swenson was born in Brooklyn and started his four-decade career on radio. Throughout the late 30s and 40s, his voice could be heard all over the airwaves, appearing in scores of daytime serials (“Lorenzo Jones”) and mystery dramas (“Inner Sanctum Mysteries”). He gave visual life to one of his serial characters, Walter Manning, in “Portia Faces Life” when it went to TV in 1953. It was during his lengthy work in this medium that he met his wife, stage and radio actress Joan Tompkins. They appeared together throughout their careers on TV and in a few films. In the 1950s, he kept afloat on TV in rugged guest spots (Dr. Kildare (1961), Gunsmoke (1955), Maverick (1957), Mission: Impossible (1966) and Hawaii Five-O (1968)). He didn’t appear in films until age 50+ with minor roles in Kings Go Forth (1958), North to Alaska (1960), The Birds (1963) and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965). His voice was also well utilized in such animated features as The Sword in the Stone (1963) as the voice of Merlin. Karl met actor Michael Landon on the set of Bonanza (1959), appearing in four separate episodes over time. Landon remembered him when he began to film Little House on the Prairie (1974). Cast in the recurring role of lumber mill owner Lars Hanson, he remained with the show until his death in 1978 of a heart attack. His character on the show also died.
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