Published : Monday, March 18, 2019 | 4:54 AM
Former actor, announcer and KTLA personality Tom Hatten, who graduated from the Pasadena Playhouse in 1950 and went on to a lengthy and multifaceted career as an entertainer, died on Saturday, March 16. He was 92.
KTLA, the station for which Hatten worked for decades, said it learned of Hatten’s passing from his longtime friend and former KTLA producer Joe Quasarano. No cause of death has been released.
Born in 1926 in Jamestown, North Dakota, Hatten served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and used benefits from the G.I. Bill to attend the Pasadena Playhouse, where he had several performances to his credit, both as a student and after graduating cum laude.
In 1952, he started working for KTLA. He was a newscaster and announcer when the station launched the afternoon children’s show, “The Pier 5 Club,” with Hatten as Skipper Tom, in 1956. He followed “Skipper Frank” Herman who appeared earlier in the afternoon with Cartoon Carousel.
Dressed in Navy whites, Hatten presented the animated works of Max and Dave Fleischer, easily obtained from a Paramount affiliate, starring as the spinach eating Popeye. Later on, the Pier 5 Club was given a more elaborate studio set and renamed “The Popeye Show,” with Hatten dressed as a harbor master in a structure resembling a marina.
When Hatten left KTLA in 1964, the demise of “The Popeye Show” came. He returned to the station in 1976 and revived the series as “Popeye and His Friends,” which ran until 1988.
Following the end of the Popeye program, Hatten was host of KTLA’s “Family Film Festival.”
Hatten also kept local residents informed about Hollywood as an entertainment editor at KNX 1070 News Radio from 1978 to 2007.
Hatten’s acting credits include portraying a corrupt general in the film “Spies Like Us,” with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. He appeared as Captain Murdock in several episodes of the television show “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” and had a minor role as an officer in three episodes of “Hogan’s Heroes.”
Hatten provided the voice of the character Farmer Fitzgibbons in the animated movie “The Secret of NIMH.”
On stage, Hatten performed in a Los Angeles production of The Billy Barnes Revue in 1959 concurrently with hosting the Popeye TV show. He portrayed Horace Vandergelder in the West Coast Opera Theatre’s production of “Hello Dolly” in 1991. He also appeared in a touring production of the musical “Annie” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Hatten served on the board of the National Student Film Institute and was a frequent presenter at its annual film festival.