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Robert Preston Poster

Biography

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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 (7)

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 it's 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.

Personal Quotes (5)

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.

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