Interview with Kirk Swenson

This interview with Karl's grandson Kirk was made through e-mail in July 2006.
BIG thanks to Kirk for taking the time to answer my questions!

Kirk with son Owen

How would you describe Karl, your grandfather, and do you have any memories of him you'd like to share with us (or stories you've heard about him from others)?
Kirk: Karl died when I was very young, but my memories of him are as a caring, lighthearted man. He also brought us gifts and took us somewhere fun when he came to visit. He was always smiling! He was obviously a bright man - all four of his sons are all painfully smart.
My favorite story is that Karl was walking down the street and Frank Sinatra Jr. recognized him. Karl had been in a movie with Frank Sr. Frank Jr. complimented Karl on the role and promptly asked if he could borrow $10!
There is also a great description of Karl's working habits by Karl Malden (
I'm biased, but I think he was an enormously talented actor. By the time he got to Hollywood he was at an age where he needed to be a character actor - and he was great at it. Still, he loved the theater and was active in community theater for many, many years.

Do you have a favourite movie/show with Karl?
Kirk: I love the Sword in the Stone, and I'm partial to Kings Go Forth. I think Karl steals the show in The Sword in the Stone -- he's brilliant and funny. I can't wait to show it to my son when he's a little older.
Kings Go Forth is much darker. I'm a big Frank Sinatra fan and there is a great scene with Karl and Frank. Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis co-star with Frank. It's a story about racism during WWII. I always thought that it was a pretty controversial subject for a 1958 film.

What's your opinion about Little House on the Prairie, and the character of Lars Hanson, and does it surprise you that the show - and Mr Hanson - are still so popular all over the world?
Kirk: My brother and I used to watch it growing up and always got a kick out of seeing "Grandpa". We'd see him in other things too, but this was his most regular role. I recently bought several seasons of the show on DVD. I think it was (and is) popular because some of the acting was very strong and the values represented in the script are very relevant.

Finally, can you tell us a little about yourself and the rest of the Swenson family?
Kirk: Karl had four sons, David, Peter, Steven and John with his first wife, Virginia. Virginia passed away in 2003, and Karl's second wife, Joan, passed away in 2005. I am Steven's youngest son (I have an older brother named Jeff) and I live in Upstate NY with my wife and son, Owen Karl Swenson. Owen is the spitting image of Karl -he really looks like a Swede!

Memories of Karl Swenson