Born on 19th October 1902 or 1903 (depending on who you believe) Tor Johnson (Birth name Karl Erik Tore Johansson), was a Swedish professional wrestler and actor. As a wrestler he was nicknamed The Super Swedish Angel and stood at 6’3″ and weighed 440 pounds. He had a fall head of blonde hair but constantly shaved it to maintain an intimidating look for the wrestling ring.
Johnson was born in Sweden, and moved to California for his wrestling career and soon began picking up bit parts in films and tv shows due to his appearance. His first documented film role was in 1934 when he played Sonnevich the Terrible Bulgarian in Robert Florey’s Registered Nurse. Further roles would follow in Kid Millions, Some Class, Man on the Flying Trapeze, Under Two Flags, Shadow of the Thin Man, Gentleman Jim, The Meanest Man in the World, Ghostcatchers, The Canterville Ghost, State of the Union, Mighty Joe Young, Alias the Champ, Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, Angels in the Outfield, Lady in the Iron Mask, Houdini, Rocky Jones Space Ranger, I Led 3 Lives, Carousel, The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, and Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster.
In 1957 Johnson would again team up with Ed Wood to play what many consider his most famous role, Inspector Clay, in the now infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (originally it was planned to be called Grave Robbers from Outer Space). A film where evil aliens attack Earth and set their terrible “Plan 9” into action. Plan 9 involves resurrecting the dead of the Earth and using them to take over! The film was the final film of Bela Lugosi, who died before the film was finished. Johnson actually lent his house for the filming of Lugosi’s scenes. During the production of the film, Wood was able to get police cars and uniforms through Tor Johnson’s son, Karl, an officer in the San Fernando Police Department, in return Karl makes an uncredited appearance in the film. The film is viewed by critics as the worst film that was ever made.
Johnson’s career would continue with roles in Bonanza, Adventures in Paradise, Shirley Temple’s Storybook, The Beast of Yucca Flats, and his last major role was as a security guard in The Monkees movie Head in 1968. Sadly, Tor Johnson passed away on May 12th 1971, in San Fernando, CA, due to a heart ailment; he was 67.