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Robert Preston Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (9) | Personal Quotes (8) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 8 June 1918Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, USA
Date of Death 21 March 1987Montecito, California, USA  (lung cancer)
Birth NameRobert Preston Meservey
Nickname Pres
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

American leading man of vast charisma, Robert Preston was the son of a garment worker and a record store clerk and grew up in Los Angeles. He was a trained musician, playing several instruments, and in high school became interested in theatre. He joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse, taking classes and appearing in scores of plays alongside such soon-to-be-well-known actors as Dana Andrews, George Reeves, Victor Mature and Don DeFore. Even in the distinguished company of Playhouse veterans like Victor Jory and Samuel S. Hinds, young Preston Meservey--or Pres, as he was always known to intimates--was an acknowledged star in the making. During one play a Paramount scout saw him and he signed a contract with the studio, which renamed him Robert Preston. After several roles in inconsequential films, Preston became a favorite of director Cecil B. DeMille, who cast him in several films but became nevertheless one of the few people Preston actively and publicly disliked. In 1946, after serving in England with the Army Air Corps, Preston married Kay Feltus (aka Catherine Craig), whom he had known in Pasadena. He struggled through numerous unfulfilling roles in the '40s, then relocated to New York and concentrated on theatre. He played many roles on Broadway and in 1957 got the part that would immortalize him in entertainment history: Professor Harold Hill in the musical "The Music Man". He won a Tony Award for the role and repeated it in the film version (The Music Man (1962)). Now a star of the first magnitude, Preston alternated between stage and film, winning another Tony for "I Do, I Do" and appearing to enormous good effect in such films as The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960), All the Way Home (1963) and Junior Bonner (1972). He received an Oscar nomination for his triumphant portrayal of a witty, gay entertainer in Victor Victoria (1982). He died in 1987 from lung cancer, after a career that took him from modest supporting lead to national treasure.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (1)

Catherine Craig (9 November 1946 - 21 March 1987) (his death)

Trivia (9)

Twice won Broadway's Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical): in 1958, for "The Music Man," a performance he recreated in the film version of the same name, The Music Man (1962); and, in 1967, for "I Do! I Do!". He was also nominated in the same category in 1975 for "Mack and Mabel", in which he played movie pioneer Mack Sennett.
Before starring in the musical "The Music Man", he had not only never appeared in a musical before, he had never sung a note professionally before.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 708-709. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Cousin of Emmerson Denney, Producer/Personal Manager.
The name of his character in the movie, Mame, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside is taken from the names of four Civil War generals - Pierre Goustave Toutant Beauregard, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, and George Pickett (Confederate), and Ambrose Burnside (Union).
Preston served three years in the United States Army Air Corps, also often referred to as the United States Army Air Forces, as an S-2 (Intelligence Officer), 386th Bombardment Group (Medium), a B-26 Marauder bomber unit, assigned to the 8th, and later to the 9th Air Force, based primarily in England, during World War II. By war's end, the 386th had moved forward, in pursuit of its own invading forces, and Captain Robert Meservey (Preston's birth name) and the 386th was re-stationed in Belgium. His job was to receive intelligence reports from 9th Air Force headquarters, in turn briefing 386th bomber crews about what they would most likely encounter, and also to apprise them of HQ expectations.
Frequently played a "heavy" in his early film roles.
A Paramount talent scout spotted the teenage Preston in a Paadena Playhouse production of Robert E. Sherwood's "Idiot's Delight" and signed him to a contract.
During the early 1950s Preston and his wife Catherine and sixteen of their friends maintained an informal acting group called 'Eighteen Actors' They were film actors trying to gain theatrical experience with their actress wives. Included were Charles Lzane, Dana Andrews, Moroni Olsen, Addison Richards, Victor Jory, and Don Porter. Their productions ran four consecutive weekends in a small state-donated building near the Rose Bowl.

Personal Quotes (8)

I've done my best to avoid B pictures. Why should I go into them now and call it television?
I'd get the best role in every B picture and the second best in the A pictures.
[on Gary Cooper] I loved working with Gary Cooper. People refer to Cooperisms and Cooper tricks, but I always found him to be a tremendous actor.
[on working with Julie Andrews on Victor Victoria (1982)] I suppose what I like most about working with Julie is that one has the feeling that the other half of the scene is well taken care of. You can relax and do your own role because you know she's doing hers.
[on Loretta Young] She worked with a full-length mirror behind the camera. I didn't know which Loretta to play to -- the one in the mirror or the one that was with me.
[on leaving Paramount after twelve years] I no longer needed or wanted the paternalism of a studio, and that's what it was in those days. the studio system had to be paternalistic, but I didn't want Big Daddy anymore. The real reason they let me go was that they'd given me a new contract, so by that time I was making more money than Alan Ladd playing the heavy in his pictures. It was easier for them to let me go and hire me back if they needed me.
Everytime I turned down something, or wasn't offered something I really wanted, the very next thing that II did was the thing I should have done all along. It's been a lucky career that way. Nothing that I've ever made really hurt me. I've survived some bad ones just the way I've survived some plays that ran four performances.
(On DeMille directing him in "Union Pacific") He was no director. For over two weeks of shooting,Stanwyck and I were alone in a boxcar, and because there were no crowd scenes, no special effects, just two people acting, you'd never have known the old man was on the set. He didn't know what to do with it, except just roll and print. He didn't know what to tell us. Also, he was not a nice person, politically or in any other way. I think the only man DeMille ever envied was Hitler. It's no secret how I felt about him. Eventually, by turning things down, I'd insulted him, and so we had no relationship at all in the last years.

Salary (1)

King of Alcatraz (1938) $100 per week

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