Though Frankie Thomas spent four films as Ted Nickerson in the Nancy Drew series from 1938 to 1939, this versatile child actor played a variety of roles in his film and stage career.
His parents both were actors, and young Mr. Thomas performed early in his career on Broadway. His role in “Wednesday’s Child” brought him to Hollywood for the film version in 1934, and he played small parts in “Boys Town” and in “The Major and the Minor.” However, after his service in World War II, Thomas was not able to turn his success as a child actor in adult roles.
His likeability in the Nancy Drew series helps to keep the character of Ted from simply being a fool to Nancy’s more clever character. Ted is actually quite indispensable, and his contributions to Nancy’s crime-solving sprees keeps her out of trouble, though he grumbles about being dragged into them.
When his mother tells the voracious Ted eating breakfast that there is no more bacon, Ted’s smart aleck response is, “What’s the matter? The recession still on?” In 1938 it was for most of the young people who were their fans, but not for Ted and Nancy Drew.
Television brought a new career to Mr. Thomas, a new flock of young fans, when he donned the uniform of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. In later years he wrote several novels, as well as books on the game of bridge, and though he looked back with fondness on his film career, never regretted having left it behind.