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Here’s What Happened to the ‘Lassie’ Cast After the Show

From 1954 to 1973, 'Lassie' was a part of weekly television, take a look back at the full cast over the years!


There are a lot of stories about dogs out there, whether they’re simply being a boy’s best friend or defying the odds and revealing themselves to be heroic, but none have been as enduring as that wondrous Collie, Lassie. And long before she became the subject of a TV show — or there was even a Lassie cast to think about — she was virtually everywhere.

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Lassie was the subject of a short story based on a real incident during World War II, then a novel, seven movies produced between 1943 and 1951, a radio series broadcast from 1947 to 1950, and, finally — and the matter at hand — a television show that ran from 1954 to 1973 on CBS. That’s some dog.

The early years of the show focused on farm widow Ellen Miller (Jan Clayton), her elderly father-in-law, George “Gramps” Miller (George Cleveland), and Ellen’s 11-year-old son Jeff Miller (Tommy Rettig), with stories set in their small farming community. Things changed in 1957 when both Ellen and Jeff said that they wanted to leave the show. In response, the decision was made to find a new boy to bond with Lassie and the show would start to follow that family.

Six-year-old Jon Provost joined the Lassie cast as Timmy for Season 4, with Cloris Leachman and Jon Shepodd cast as his foster parents. But Cloris became unhappy, fought with her co-workers and this, coupled with falling ratings resulted in yet another change being made.

At the start of the fifth season, Timmy had new foster parents in the form of June Lockhart (who starred in the film Son of Lassie, and would go on to star in the TV show Lost in Space) and Broadway star Hugh Reilly.

Although the show’s ratings had suffered because of the previous changing of casts, it began to rise in 1960 with the new family and reached #13 (its highest placement during the entire run) in 1964.

Lassie has her day at a news conference, 1950s. Getty Images

After seven seasons and 249 episodes, and having turned 14, Jon decided that the time was right for him to leave the show, despite the fact that producers wanted to sign him up for another three years.

“I started when I was seven and by the time I left I was going through puberty,” Provost offers in explanation. “Everyone, including the girls, thought of me as little Timmy. Well, I’m not. I wanted out and my parents were great. They said, ‘What do you want to do?’ I told them I wanted to continue to work — I totally enjoyed that part of it, but I wanted to move on. I was tired of being Timmy. That was it. I’d spent a lot of time with the dogs, now I was looking at the girls.”

Lassie cast what happened after the show

The Lassie cast was pretty diversified over the years, and here’s a look at what happened to them after they left the show.

Jan Clayton as Ellen Miller (1954 to 1957) in the Lassie cast

Jan Clayton
Jan Clayton and Lassie, 1954.©CBS/Wikipedia

Born August 26, 1917 in Tularosa, New Mexico, Jan Clayton came to Lassie from a background on the Broadway stage in musicals like Carousel and Show Boat, and 11 film roles between 1938’s Sunset Trail and 1949’s The Wolf Hunters.

She left Lassie after the fourth season to essentially save her family given that she had a husband and four children, but was always working. She did make a few more guest appearances on shows, but struggled with alcoholism. In 1970 she joined Alcoholics Anonymous and worked as a volunteer, answering phones for the Alcoholism Council of Greater Los Angeles. She died on August 28, 1983 of cancer. She was 66.

Tommy Rettig as Jeff Miller (1954 to 1957) in the Lassie cast

Tommy Rettig and Lassie
“Lassie” with actor Tommy Rettig, 1956. Richard C. Miller/Getty Images

Thomas Noel Retting was born on December 10, 1941 in Queens, New York. He appeared in 18 movies between 1950’s Panic in the Streets and 1956’s The Last Wagon. He competed with over 500 kids for the part of Jeff Miller, though after four seasons he was desperate to live a normal life and was released from his contract. Following high school graduation, he began guest starring on different TV shows, including The Man from Blackhawk, Wagon Train, Peter Gunn, and the teen soap opera Never Too Young.

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Finding it challenging to move from teen to adult performer, he ran into trouble with the law, mostly on drug-related charges. Eventually he became a motivational speaker and was very successful in the last part of his life as a database programmer. Thomas was married to Darlene Portwood from 1959 to 1977. He died on February 15, 1996 of heart failure at age 54.

Jon Provost as Timmy Martin (1957 to 1964)

Jon Provost and Lassie
Jon Provost with Lassie in the 1950s, then and at the CBS 75th anniversary celebration, 2023.Getty Images

Lassie’s most popular best friend was undoubtedly Timmy Martin, played by Jon Provost, who was born March 12, 1950 in Los Angeles. He made his acting debut at the age of two in So Big (1953), followed by The Country Girl (1954), Back from Eternity (1956) and Escapade in Japan (1957). Then he was cast as Timmy in 1957 and stayed with the show until 1964. As he explains, he looks back at his acting career as the best collection of “home movies” he could hope for.

Jon Provost
Jon Provost makes an appearance at Wondercon in 2022.Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

“I just watched a clip the other day from So Big, my first movie, and my second movie, Country Girl, with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. I’m barely four years old. Come on, who has stuff like that? And then I did 249 half-hour episodes of Lassie, probably only a third of which I remember, because on any given day we could be filming from three different scripts. As a child, I never read a script straight through; I only read what I had to do the next day, so I didn’t really know what was going on half the time. I just showed up, but I did have fun most of the time. Now I can watch those episodes and it brings back all these great memories.”

Following Lassie, he would make TV guest appearances and appear in half a dozen more movies. He’s been married twice and has two children. Jon, who is 73, wrote the memoir, Timmy’s in the Well: the Jon Provost Story.

Jon Shepodd as Paul Martin (1957 to 1958) in the Lassie cast

Jon Shepodd
Jon Shepodd and the cast of Lassie, 1957.©CBS/IMDb

Jon Shepodd, born December 19, 1927 in Birmingham, Alabama, did not have an extensive acting career. He has nine films to his credit, beginning with an uncredited role in The Mississippi Gambler (1953) and ending with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

And insofar as Lassie is concerned, when Cloris Leachman left the show, the producers let him go as well, concerned that a change in wives would confuse young viewers. Jon died on August 16, 2017 at age 89.

Hugh Reilly as Paul Martin (1958 to 1964)

Jon Provost and Hugh Reilly
Jon Provost, Lassie and Hugh Reilly, then and in later years.L-R: ©CBS/courtesy;

Born October 30, 1915 in Newark, New Jersey, prior to joining the Lassie cast Hugh Reilly performed on Broadway in shows such as Second Threshold and The Curious Savage (both 1950), Never Say Never (1951), Dear Charles (1954) and Fair Game (1957). On television he appeared on a variety of drama anthologies and in the films Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949), The Sleeping City (1950) and Bright Victory (1951).

Following the series, he made some guest appearances, became a cast member of The Edge of Night soap opera and his final TV roles were in episodes of The F.B.I. and Father Murphy. The father of three, he died on July 17, 1998 of emphysema. He was 82.

Cloris Leachman as Ruth Martin (1957 to 1958)

Cloris Leachman
Cloris Leachman with the cast of Lassie and in 2019.L-R: ©CBS/Wikipedia; Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

There is just so much to say about Cloris Leachman, born April 30, 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa. Her career spanned eight decades on the big screen and the small, during which she won an Academy Award, eight Primetime Emmy Awards (out of 22 total nominations) and credits that include films like The Last Picture Show (1971) and Young Frankenstein (1974) — which are just two of the 90 films she appeared in, the final one being Not to Forget (released posthumously in 2021).

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On television, she was a series regular or recurring character on Charlie Wild, Private Detective (1950 to 1952), 28 episodes of Lassie (1957 to 1958), Dr. Kildare (1965), The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970 to 1977), before her character of Phyllis Lindstrom was spun off to her own series, Phyllis (1975 to 1977), The Facts of Life (1986 to 1988), The Nutt House (1989), Walter & Emily (1991 to 1992), Touched by An Angel (between 1997 and 2003), Thanks (1999), Malcolm in the Middle (2001 to 2006), The Ellen Show (2001 to 2002), Raising Hope (2010 to 2014) and American Gods (2017 to 2019). On top of that, she appeared in dozens of TV movies.

Young Frankenstein
Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Gene Wilder and Teri Garr in Young Frankenstein, 1974.©20th Century Fox/courtesy

The stage was somewhere she was extremely comfortable in as well, starring in 25 shows between 1942’s Ah, Wilderness and the 2006 workshop for the musical version of Young Frankenstein.

Cloris was married to George Englund from 1953 to 1979 and is the mother of five. She died on January 27, 2021 of a stroke, which COVID was a contributing factor to. She was 94.

June Lockhart as Ruth Martin (1958 to 1964)

June Lockhart
June Lockhart and Lassie then and in 2009.Getty Images

She may have been late to the Lassie cast party, but June Lockhart is likely the version of Timmy’s mother that audiences most remember, given that she is counted among TV’s most popular moms.

She was born June 25, 1925 in New York City, and made her stage debut at the age of 8 in Peter Ibbetson, which was presented by the Metropolitan Opera. Her movie debut was in 1938 in A Christmas Carol, followed by 14 other films prior to her famous canine series. One of them was actually 1945’s Son of Lassie, in which she portrayed the character of Priscilla.

Lost in Space
June Lockhart and the cast of Lost in Space, 1965.©20th Television/courtesy

Following 200 episodes as Ruth Martin, she would go on to play Dr. Maureen Robinson opposite Guy Williams’ John Robinson on the sci-fi family series Lost in Space, which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1968. Then, from 1968 to 1970, she was Dr. Janet Craig on the sitcom Petticoat Junction. Between 1992 and 1993, she was cast as Maria on the daytime soap opera General Hospital, and made numerous guest appearances on different shows over the years.

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June has been married twice and has two children, including actress Anne Lockhart. She is 98-years-old.

Robert Bray as Forest Ranger Corey Stuart (1964 to 1968)

Robert Bray and Lassie
Robert Bray and Lassie in the later incarnation of the series, 1964.©CBS/courtesy

The Lassie cast took on a very different look beginning in 1964 when she began working with the U.S. Forest Service (it sounds bizarre, but that version of the show did last from 1964 to 1970). Her first co-star was Robert Bray as Forest Ranger Corey Stuart, who would be written out of the series following season 11, victim of a fire who has been hospitalized. Born October 23, 1917 in Kalispell, Montana, Robert may not have had a regular gig again, but he was the definition of a working actor, with near a hundred credits to his name. Married once, he passed away on March 7, 1983 at age 65.

Ron Hayes as Garth Holden (1971 to 1973)

Final Lassie cast
Cast of the syndicated version of Lassie, 1971. ©CBS/IMDb

Changes came yet again where it came to the Lassie cast as the show rounded out its run as a syndicated series between 1971 and 1973. Ron Hayes, born February 26, 1929 in Malibu, California, portrayed rancher Garth Holden, who lived there with his son, Ron. The actor had a recurring role as Wyatt Earp on the Bat Masterson TV series between 1959 and 1961. He also appeared on such series as Clint Eastwood‘s Rawhide, Steve McQueen‘s Wanted: Dead or Alive, Gunsmoke and Death Valley Days. Married four times and the father of three, he died on October 1, 2004 at age 75.

Skip Burton as Ron Holden (1971 to 1973)

Lassie and Skip Burton
Lassie and Skip Burton in the syndicated version of the show.©CBS/IMDb

Lassie’s final best pal on television was Ron Holden, who was played by Skip Burton. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information out there about the actor, although the bottom line is that as one of the Lassie cast, he is part of Lassie’s legacy and always will be.

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