Rusty Hamer, the child actor in Danny Thomas' popular 1950s and '60s television series ``Make Room for Daddy,' has died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 42.
``He hasn't really been happy since his early 20s,' said Hamer's brother, John. ``But he didn't show any signs of this happening. It was just all of a sudden.'Hamer said his brother suffered debilitating back pain but refused to see a doctor.
He apparently shot himself in the head Wednesday with a .357-caliber revolver, said Chief Detective Robert McCullough of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office.
John Hamer found his brother's body Thursday night in the trailer where he lived near DeRidder, about 40 miles north of Lake Charles in southwestern Louisiana.
On the TV series, which ran from 1953 to 1964, Rusty Hamer played the precocious child Rusty. Danny Thomas played his father, a nightclub singer and comedian. Marjorie Lord played Thomas' second wife, Kathy, and Angela Cartwright played her daughter, Linda.
It was one of television's most durable and popular situation comedies. Most of the cast, including Hamer, returned in 1970-71 with a sequel sitcom, ``Make Room For Granddaddy,' in which Rusty was a married medical student. It lasted one season.
Rusty Hamer got his first film role at the age of 5, appeared in several Abbot and Costello films, and has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, his brother said.
At age 20 Hamer was working for a Los Angeles messenger service and was bitter and depressed, his brother said. After moving to southwest Louisiana, his jobs included delivering a newspaper, working offshore for Exxon, and occasional work at his brother's restaurant.
John Hamer, 47, said he began acting before his brother but left Hollywood when he was 17.
``I did not enjoy the industry. I felt the people in it - the majority were confused in their own lives,' he said.
John Hamer said he had moved to DeRidder to open a cafe and Rusty moved there in 1976 to be near their mother, who had moved in with John. He said he thought their mother's ill health took a toll on his brother.
The only survivors are his brother and their mother, Dorothy Hamer, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and is in a nursing home. He will be cremated without services, according to Colonial Funeral Home in DeRidder.