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Tor Johnson
PlanNine 10.jpg
Johnson in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)
Karl Erik Tore Johansson

(1902-10-19)19 October 1902 or (1903-10-19)19 October 1903
Died12 May 1971 (aged 67–68)
Resting placePlot 177, Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, Santa Clarita, California
Other names
  • Super Swedish Angel
  • Thor Johnson
  • King Kong
OccupationProfessional wrestler, actor
Years active1934–1961
SpouseGreta Maria Alfrida Johansson

Karl Erik Tore Johansson (19 October 1902 or 1903; sources differ – 12 May 1971), better known by the stage name Tor Johnson, was a Swedish professional wrestler and actor. As an actor, Johnson appeared in many B-movies, including some famously directed by Ed Wood. In professional wrestling, Johnson was billed as Tor Johnson and Super Swedish Angel.

Early life

Johnson was born on 19 October 1902 in Brännkyrka, Stockholms län, Sweden, the son of Karl Johan Johansson and Lovisa Kristina Pettersson. His death certificate and grave list 1903 as the year of his birth, contradicting published genealogy records.[1]


Johnson stood 6'3"[2] and weighed 440 pounds (200 kg) at his heaviest. He had a full head of blonde hair, but shaved it to maintain an imposing and villainous appearance in his wrestling and acting work. He began getting bit parts in films upon moving to California, usually as the strongman or weightlifter, as early as 1934. His film career ended in the early 1960s, after he appeared in a string of poorly-rated films. However, he continued to make appearances on television and made a number of commercials.[3]

Tor Johnson used the ring name Super Swedish Angel to distinguish himself from Nils Phillip Olafsson who used the ring name Swedish Angel. The name was derived from wrestler Maurice Tillet, known as the French Angel.

During his career as an actor, Johnson befriended director Ed Wood, who directed him in a number of films, including Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 from Outer Space; writing for Turner Classic Movies, film critic Donald Liebenson described Johnson's performance in Plan 9 as "gonzo."[4] Johnson was very friendly to work with; actress Valda Hansen, who worked with Johnson in 1959's Night of the Ghouls, described him as "like a big sugar bun."[5] During this period, Johnson appeared as a guest contestant on the quiz show You Bet Your Life, during which he showed the show's host, Groucho Marx, his "scariest face." Marx ran off the stage in mock terror, then returned and pleaded: "Don't make that face again!"

Death and legacy

Johnson in The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
Johnson in The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

Johnson died of heart failure in San Fernando, California, at the age of 68.[6] He was buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park, in Santa Clarita, California.[7]

Johnson was portrayed by wrestler George "The Animal" Steele in Tim Burton's film Ed Wood (1994).[8]

Johnson was featured extensively in the early work of cartoonist Drew Friedman, where Johnson was depicted as "Tor", a slow-witted, white-eyed lummox based on Johnson's persona in Ed Wood's films.[9] The first of the one page comics, "Tor Johnson at Home", was published in a 1981 issue of Robert Crumb's Weirdo, and the original artwork was purchased by television writer and producer Eddie Gorodetsky.[10]

A latex mask based on Johnson's face, sculpted by Pat Newman for Don Post Studios, is described as "the best-selling Halloween horror mask of the late 1960s-early 1970s".[11]



Year Title Role Notes
1934 Registered Nurse Sonnevich Uncredited[12]
1934 Kid Millions Torturer Uncredited[13]
1935 Some Class Tough Guy Short, Uncredited[14][15]
1935 Man on the Flying Trapeze Tosoff Uncredited[13]
1936 Under Two Flags Bidou Uncredited
1941 Shadow of the Thin Man Jack the Ripper (wrestler) Uncredited[16]
1942 Gentleman Jim The Mauler Uncredited
1943 The Meanest Man in the World Vladimir Pulasky Uncredited[17]
1943 Swing Out the Blues Weightlifter
1944 Ghost Catchers Mug Uncredited[18]
1944 The Canterville Ghost Bold Sir Guy Uncredited[19]
1944 Lost in a Harem Majordomo Uncredited
1945 Sudan Slaver Uncredited[16]
1947 Road to Rio Sandor Uncredited[20]
1948 State of the Union Wrestler Uncredited
1948 Behind Locked Doors The Champ Uncredited"[21]
1949 Alias the Champ Super Swedish Angel
1950 The Reformer and the Redhead Big Finnish man Uncredited[22]
1950 Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion Abou Ben
1951 The Lemon Drop Kid Super Swedish Angel
1951 Dear Brat Uncredited
1951 Angels in the Outfield Wrestler On TV Uncredited
1952 The San Francisco Story Buck Uncredited[23]
1952 Lady in the Iron Mask Renac Uncredited[24]
1953 Houdini Strong Man Uncredited[25]
1955 Bride of the Monster Lobo
1955 You're Never Too Young Train passenger Uncredited[26]
1956 Carousel Strongman Uncredited[27]
1956 The Black Sleep Mr. Curry
1957 Journey to Freedom Giant Turk
1957 The Unearthly Lobo Johnson's character famously delivers the line, "Time for go to bed."[28][29]
1957 Plan 9 from Outer Space Inspector Daniel Clay
1959 Night of the Ghouls Lobo
1961 The Beast of Yucca Flats Joseph Javorsky / The Beast
1968 Head Guard Uncredited


Year Series Role Episode
1953–1954 You Are There "The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown"[30]
"The Surrender of Corregidor"[31]
1954 General Electric Theater Bald Man "To Lift a Feather"[32]
1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger Naboro "Inferno in Space"[33]
1956 The Adventures of Hiram Holliday Bandini the Strongman "Dancing Mouse"
1959 You Bet Your Life Tor Johnson #59-11
1960 Adventures in Paradise Miko "Once Around the Circuit"[34]
"The Lady From South Chicago"[35]
1960 Peter Gunn Bruno "See No Evil"[21]
1960 Bonanza Busthead Brannigan "San Francisco"[36]
1961 Shirley Temple's Storybook The Strongman "Pippi Longstocking"[37]


  1. ^ Thorsell, Elisabeth. "Tor Johnson Genealogy". Rötters Anbytarforum (in Swedish). Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "Tor Johnson". IMDb.
  3. ^ Raw, Lawrence (2012). Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930-1960. McFarland & Company. pp. 117–119. ISBN 978-0786444748.
  4. ^ Liebenson, Donald. "Plan 9 from Outer Space Lands in TCM Classic Film Festival!". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Classic Movies Inc. Retrieved 2022-04-18.
  5. ^ MacDonald, Heidi (23 November 2011). "Gift Guide: Drew Friedman's new Tor Johnson print". ComicsBeat.
  6. ^ Lentz, Harris M., III (2003). Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling (2nd ed.). McFarland & Company. p. 176. ISBN 978-0786417544.
  7. ^ Stephens, E.J. (5 April 2009). "Cinema history 'lives on' at Eternal Valley". B. The Signal. Vol. 93, no. 95. Santa Clarita, California: Ian Lamont. pp. 1, 4 – via
  8. ^ Sonnenberg, Maria (27 July 2014). Stover, Bob (ed.). "The Animal pins problems to the mat". Florida Today. Vol. 49, no. 133. Cocoa, Florida: Jeff Kiel. p. 5E – via
  9. ^ Friedman, Drew; Friedman, Josh Alan (30 April 2012). Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental. Fantagraphics Books. pp. 4, 21–36. ISBN 978-1-60699-521-1.
  10. ^ Friedman, Drew (1 January 2007). The Fun Never Stops!: An Anthology of Comic Art 1991–2006. Fantagraphics Books. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-56097-840-4.
  11. ^ " LW3638 | Film-Arts | Tor Johnson Latex Halloween Monster Mask, Don Post Studios 1977".
  12. ^ III, Harris M. Lentz (1 January 2003). Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7864-1754-4.
  13. ^ a b Fetrow, Alan G. (1 August 1992). Sound films, 1927-1939: a United States filmography. McFarland. pp. 331, 339. ISBN 978-0-89950-546-6.
  14. ^ Alicoate, Chas A. (8 August 1935). "Short Shots". The Film Daily. Vol. 68, no. 33. New York, N.Y.: John W. Alicoate. p. 11 – via Internet Archive.
  15. ^ Kann, Maurice, ed. (7 December 1935). "Short Subjects". Motion Picture Daily. Vol. 38, no. 134. New York, N.Y.: Martin Quigley. p. 4 – via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ a b King Hanson, Patricia, ed. (1999). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures: Feature Films, 1941-1950. Vol. 3: Film Entries M-Z. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 1952,2137. ISBN 9780520215214.
  17. ^ Fetrow, Alan G. (1 January 1994). Feature Films, 1940-1949: A United States Filmography. McFarland. p. 302. ISBN 978-0-89950-914-3.
  18. ^ Dettman, Bruce; Bedford, Michael (1976). The Horror Factory: The Horror Films of Universal, 1931 to 1955. Gordon Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-87968-443-3.
  19. ^ Institute, American Film (1999). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures produced in the United States. Feature Films, 1941 - 1950. Vol. 1: Film Entries, A–L. University of California Press. p. 367. ISBN 978-0-520-21521-4.
  20. ^ Mielke, Randall G. (1997). Road to Box Office: The Seven Film Comedies of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, 1940-1962. McFarland & Company. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-7864-0162-8.
  21. ^ a b Freese, Gene (15 September 2017). Classic Movie Fight Scenes: 75 Years of Bare Knuckle Brawls, 1914–1989. McFarland. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-4766-2935-3.
  22. ^ King Hanson, Patricia, ed. (1999). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures: Feature Films, 1941-1950. Vol. 2: Film Entries M-Z. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 1952. ISBN 978-0520215214.
  23. ^ Wax, Mo, ed. (5 May 1952). "'The San Francisco Story' OK Gun & Fist Stuff". Film Bulletin. Vol. 20, no. 9. Mo Wax. p. 8 – via Internet Archive.
  24. ^ Parsons, Louella O., ed. (16 November 1952). "The New Films". The State Journal. Vol. 98, no. 202. Lansing, Michigan: Federated Publications. p. 37 – via
  25. ^ Fetrow, Alan G. (1999). Feature Films, 1950-1959: A United States Filmography. McFarland. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-7864-0427-8.
  26. ^ Neibaur, James L.; Okuda, Ted (1995). The Jerry Lewis films: an analytical filmography of the innovative comic. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-89950-961-7.
  27. ^ Daniel, Blum (1969) [1957]. Screen World. Vol. 8. New York, N.Y.: Biblo & Tannen. p. 32. ISBN 0819602639.
  28. ^ "The Tor Top Ten". The Astounding B Monster. The Astounding B Monster. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
  29. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000, Season 3". STANDS4 LLC. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
  30. ^ Vaile, Edward, ed. (27 December 1953). "Today's Best TV Programs Previewed". Iowa TV Guide. The Des Moines Register. Vol. 105, no. 190. Des Moines, Iowa. p. 1 – via
  31. ^ Gianakos, Larry James (1 January 1980). Television Drama Series Programming: A Comprehensive Chronicle, 1947-1959. Scarecrow Press. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-8108-1330-4.
  32. ^ Lentz, Harris M. (2001). Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy Film and Television Credits: Television shows. McFarland. p. 1845. ISBN 978-0-7864-0952-5.
  33. ^ Lucanio, Patrick; Coville, Gary (1998). American Science Fiction Television Series of the 1950s: Episode Guides and Casts and Credits for Twenty Shows. McFarland. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-7864-0434-6.
  34. ^ Leibfried, Philip; Lane, Chei Mi (17 August 2010). Anna May Wong: A Complete Guide to Her Film, Stage, Radio and Television Work. McFarland. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-4766-0932-4.
  35. ^ Chan, Anthony B. (8 February 2007). Perpetually Cool: The Many Lives of Anna May Wong (1905-1961). Scarecrow Press. p. 294. ISBN 978-1-4616-7041-4.
  36. ^ Leiby, Bruce R.; Leiby, Linda F. (31 May 2012). A Reference Guide to Television's Bonanza: Episodes, Personnel and Broadcast History. McFarland. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-4766-0075-8.
  37. ^ Noyes, Mike (4 December 2008). "Bride of the Monster - DVD Review". Inside Pulse.