B. G. Norman       (1940-2015)
B. G. Norman had a long career in film and television before playing Ambitious in all three Spin and Marty serials. He would continue in
show business up to the sixties, then co-founded a successful business, still operating today, in another field.
Bruce Gilbert Norman was born in Los Angeles on Dec 24, 1940. He had one brother, Richard, six years older than him, and a younger sister Noralee who was also active as a child in television. For a guy with such an extensive
list of television and film credits, there is little information available about his background. Its not even known if his usual billing
as "B. G." was a real-life nickname or just for the marquee.
His film debut was as a polio victim in Sister Kenny (1946). His first screen billing was in The Big Clock (1948) with
Maureen O'Sullivan. He did a B western Sundown in Santa Fe (1948), then had uncredited bits in A Connecticut Yankee in King
Arthur's Court (with David Stollery) and the film noir The Reckless Moment, both in 1949. He did bit parts in two more films, The Gunfighter
(1950), and a send-up of B westerns called Callaway Went Thataway (1951) before switching to television.
Television offered a more level playing field for novices than films. Established movie actors hesitated to appear in the medium for fear
of incurring the wrath of the film studios. Storylines were shorter but there were many more of them, so juvenile actors had a greater
chance of getting a guest star role and screen credit. B. G. Norman did three episodes each of The Lone Ranger and The Range
Rider, and a single episode of Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok between 1950 and 1953. The latter year also saw the release of his
last two films, The Marshal's Daughter with Hoot Gibson, and Pack Train with Gene Autry.
He also did three episodes of Gene Autry's television show, for which he was billed as "Bruce Norman", two episodes each of The Cisco Kid
and The Roy Rogers Show, and appeared in dramatic productions for two anthology series, Fireside Theater and Playhouse of
Stars, during 1953 and 1954. The latter year also saw him do episodes of Life with Father and Rockey Jones, Space Ranger.
His final credit just before the Mickey Mouse Club started production was a major dramatic role in an episode called "The Wild Bunch"
for Four Star Playhouse, in February 1955, with Charles Boyer, Natalie Wood, and Gigi Perreau
Auditions for The Adventures of Spin and Marty began on April 16, 1955, while the project was still called
Marty Markham. With fourteen kids to cast, the competition for parts was intense, but friendly, many of the young actors interviewed
recommending other boys to the casting directors. Nearly all of the boys selected were veterans of film and television, and many had worked
with each other on earlier projects. B. G. Norman was selected to play the role of Ambitious, who was main character Marty Markham's
(David Stollery) first friend at the Triple R ranch. Ambitious had been the second most important character in
the original 1940 book, but for the teleplay was eclipsed by the role of Spin Evans (Tim Considine).
B. G. Norman, Tim Considine, and David Stollery were all the same age, having been born within a few weeks of each other. (Their
co-star Sammy Ogg was a year older). The role of the lackadaisical Ambitious (the character had no other name)
might have been written with B. G. Norman in mind. As one longtime fan of the serial put it, "B. G. had the uncanny ability to look
absolutely disconnected from the action going on around him, even when actually a part of that action".
Following the success of this first serial, David Stollery, Sammy Ogg, and Brand Stirling were cast in other Disney projects, but B. G. Norman
did only an episode of an anthology series called Cavalcade of America during the 1955-56 season. He then returned to Disney in July
1956 for Further Adventures of Spin and Marty. Though still one of the major supporting characters, his role, like
that of other first season holdovers, was diminished by the addition of Annette Funicello and
Kevin Corcoran to the cast.
The New Adventures of Spin and Marty appears to have been B. G. Norman's last work for the Disney Studios. This
project, filmed in the summer of 1957, saw the original supporting cast reduced down just B. G. Norman, Sammy Ogg, and Tim Hartnagel. Still,
B. G. had more screen time than the other two, due to a minor plotline that saw him besmitten with newcomer Darlene
Gillespie. B. G. also did publicity work for the studio this final year, appearing in several photos used for articles in Walt
Disney's Magazine and press releases.
Bruce Norman continued acting for six more years, usually doing no more than one television guest star spot per year. Following his work at
Disney, he appeared in episodes of Trackdown (1958), The Millionaire (1959), and The June Allyson Show (1960). He did
two episodes of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in 1962, then had his final screen credits the following year with a bit part in
a comedy pilot called Rockabye the Infantry.
Many of the images and some information come courtesy of Kurt Spitzner
His subsequent life was out of the public eye; unlike his Spin and Marty co-stars, Bruce didn't take part in any
interviews or nostalgia coventions. It is known that in 1971 he co-founded a successful financial services company in Southern California, for
which he served as president for over thirty years, and after his retirement sat on its board of directors. According to his son Chris, Bruce Norman
passed away on February 20, 2015 of complications from dementia.