Tom Jennings Dies: Former Agent And Casting Director Was 81

Tom and Jill Jennings. (Family Photo)
Tom and Jill Jennings (Family Photo)

Retired Hollywood talent agent and casting director Tom Jennings has died. He was 81.

Jennings lost his life in an accidental house fire on Bainbridge Island in Washington state on April 18, his family said in a statement to Deadline.

According to the Kitsap Sun newspaper, the fire broke out in a condominium unit that Jennings shared with his wife Jill. The fire department later determined the blaze was caused by a candle that set a couch on fire. The Jennings attempted to extinguish the flames but were unsuccessful. Jill made it to safety, but Tom died of a heart attack during the fire.

Before moving to Washington, Jennings had a lengthy career in Hollywood. He represented actors, comedians, and musicians including Julian Fellowes, Burl Ives, Lee Van Cleef, David Carradine, Cheryl Ladd, Marion Ross, Gene Simmons (of KISS fame), and many others.

Jennings was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1937, and his family moved to Santa Barbara, California in 1944. After graduating from Santa Barbara High School, he served two years in the U.S. Marines and went to college to pursue a career in medicine.

Instead of becoming a doctor, like his father and older brother, Jennings decided he wanted to work in Hollywood.

His first job in entertainment was at Artists Agency Corporation where he served as an agency assistant to Bing Crosby and his production company. Jennings’ next agency job was at General Artists Corporation. Early on at GAC, he was assigned the job of helping television pioneer Bill Sargent with The Teenage Music International show (TAMI), which featured The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson and other future stars.

After leaving GAC, he became a casting director, first under Dave Davis and Rod Amateau at Cottage Industries and then at MCA-Universal and Warner Brothers Television. He cast many television series, including Kung Fu, The Patty Duke Show and Adam 12.

In 1976, Jennings partnered with agent Walter Beakel to form Beakel and Jennings, a boutique Talent Agency in Beverly Hills. After Tom retired from the entertainment industry, he eventually moved to Washington.

Tom and Jill separated in 1992, and later divorced. But in 2014, they remarried.

He is survived by his wife Jill, sons Bryan and John, daughter Julia, his grandchildren Kyle, Lindsay, Trevor, Trista, and his sister Patricia. He was preceded in death by his son Hugo and older brother Ken.

The family will hold a service at a later date in Jennings’ hometown of Santa Barbara. Remembrances can be made to The Neurological Surgery Program at The University of Washington in the name of Hugo Strike Jennings.

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