The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


B. G. Norman       Dec 24, 1940


Ambitious

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.

Background

Bruce Gilbert Norman was born in Los Angeles. He has one brother, Richard, who is six years older than him. 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

Performance

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.

Aftermath

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.

His subsequent life has been out of the public eye; unlike his Spin and Marty co-stars, Bruce doesn't seem to have taken 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 recent retirement, now sits on its board of directors.

Many of the images and some information come courtesy of Kurt Spitzner

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