Karl Swenson was born on July 23, 1908, in Brooklyn New York.
Through his radio career, Karl met his wife Joan Tompkins, who was both a radio actress and Broadway star. Together they formed their own acting company, with Karl as the director. Karl also had four sons (from a previous marriage) and several grandchildren.
Of Swedish decent, Karl often played characters with a Scandinavian accent, but he also had a talented for other accents. In fact he was known as “The Man of a Thousand Voices”.
Karl started out on radio, where he was on many different shows, some of the most famous (and long-running) being Our Gal Sunday (1937-1959), Lorenzo Jones (1937-1955) and Mr. Chameleon (1948-1953).
He also starred in a lot of movies, including Kings Go Forth (1958, with Frank Sinatra), North to Alaska (1960, with John Wayne), Flaming Star (1960, with Elvis Presley) and Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Karl’s talent for voices came to good use when he did the voice of Merlin in Walt Disney’s animated classic The Sword in the Stone (1963).
Over the years Karl guest-starred in an incredible number of Television series, like Gunsmoke, Leave it to Beaver, Have Gun - Will Travel, Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show, Perry Mason, Lassie and Mission: Impossible. But he is probably most famous to TV viewers as Lars Hanson on Little House on the Prairie - a role he played from 1974 until just before his tragic death in 1978.
On October 8, 1978, Karl Swenson died of a heart attack - only 8 days before his TV character Lars Hanson passed away in the episode There is No Place Like Home.