Robert Stack Poster


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Overview (5)

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA
Died in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameRobert Langford Modini Stack
Nickname Bob
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

"Straight Shooting" - whether skeet shooting, or portraying Eliot Ness, Robert Stack always tells it like it is, and shoots straight. Robert was the second child of Elizabeth Modini Wood (who named him Charles after his grandfather) and James Langford Stack (who changed his name to Robert, after no one in particular). Even though Robert was born in Los Angeles, since his parents divorced when he was one-year-old, and his mother took him to Europe when he was three, he could not speak English until he was six; (his older brother James Langford Jr., stayed in the United States with their father). Robert spoke fluent Italian and French, but had to learn English when they returned to Los Angeles. His mother and father remarried in 1928. Robert took drama courses at USC. He was not interested in team sports, so he took up skeet shooting. In 1935, he came in second in the National Skeet Shooting Championship (held in Cleveland) and, in 1936, his 5-man team broke the standing record at the National Skeet Championships (held in St. Louis).

Robert arrived at Universal City Studios in 1939, when the movie studio (once riding high on the successes of movies like Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931)) was in financial trouble, and looking for a superstar. That superstar was Deanna Durbin (acquired from MGM), and Robert made his screen debut as her lover in First Love (1939). At first, Robert did not want to listen to the makeup man who had told him, "no blond has ever made it as a leading man", and insisted on dyeing his hair black and uncurling it. That makeup man was genius and Oscar winner, Jack P. Pierce (who had done all the monsters for Universal), and Robert became a matinee idol, overnight. After two more movies, Robert was teamed with Deanna again, in Nice Girl? (1941). Robert was now a bona-fide star, but Universal was still only paying him $150 a week. For the next 10 years, Robert did Westerns, war movies and romantic comedies.

Robert has particularly fond memories for Bullfighter and the Lady (1951), a movie produced by his friend, John Wayne, which meant 12 weeks filming in sunny Mexico. The movie had a great script; unfortunately, two bullfighters were gored while filming. There were several weeks of delays, they could not get a crew or a sound stage, until they realized that, in Mexico, it is necessary to bribe the local union; some money was passed and filming started, immediately. There were wild times, and lots of tequila. Robert became a local legend; when some Mexicans asked him what he did in the War, Robert said: "I taught machine gun". The rumor spread: "Roberto teaches chingas!" (that's Spanish for "hookers"). In 1952, Robert made movie history (much like Al Jolson had done in 1927, being in the first "talkie") - he starred in Bwana Devil (1952), the first 3-D movie. This gave startling effects to the story, which was based on real-life lion attacks in Africa.

Robert attended the premiere, and recalled people's reactions to the 3-D lion scenes: "People in the audience jumped out of their seats, some even fainted." The movie broke box office records, and immediately started the demand to film more movies in 3-D (such as House of Wax (1953)). Around 1955, Robert (Hollywood's most eligible bachelor) was introduced to Rosemarie Bowe, by mutual agent Bill Shiffrin. Rosemarie had been under contract to MGM and Columbia, making such movies as Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and The Golden Mistress (1954). Robert and Rosemarie got married around 1957, and had two wonderful kids: Elizabeth Stack and Charles Stack. The perennial bachelor found out he liked being married and being a father. Robert's onscreen fame had grown and, for Written on the Wind (1956), he received an Academy Award nomination. Unfortunately, this did not sit well with 20th-Century Fox, which had Robert under contract, and had lent him to Universal for this picture.

Robert talks of a few run-ins with a mystery woman he calls "Deirdre", which cost him his next plum movie role. Although he gives her this pseudonym, he drops over a half dozen bits of information about her... she was from the South, under contract to MGM, married a young actor, had an interest in bullfighters, and (refusing to work with Robert Stack) starred with Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn in a movie about a post-World War I "lost generation"; (which could be The Sun Also Rises (1957), and the mystery woman could be Ava Gardner). His contract with Fox came to an end. And so, Robert made the transition to the new medium that was sweeping the country: television. He delivered breakout performances in his signature role as Eliot Ness on the wildly popular television series, The Untouchables (1959) which, after the pilot, ran for four seasons (118 episodes). And there was also the television movie, The Scarface Mob (1959).

There were some funny behind-the-scenes anecdotes, such as this one: there is no scene which stood out more as the most potentially evil, and risky in terms of audience acceptance, as the "bacio di morte" (kiss of death), the Sicilian gesture when the Capo (Neville Brand) kissed a Mafia soldier (Frank DeKova) to send him out as an executioner. These two macho actors were nervous enough about this scene (two guys had never kissed on television before), but then some crewman decided to be a prankster and told each star, in private, just before filming, "look out -- your co-star likes kissing guys" (a complete deception, of course). There were some sad anecdotes: Joseph Wiseman was a fine actor, but trained to work on the New York stage with props; he was not accustomed to real Hollywood sets. In a 1960 episode of "The Untouchables", he was supposed to take an axe and smash up a brewery. He hit a real pipe, the axe ricocheted off the metal, and cut through his Achilles tendon.

"I never felt so sorry for anyone in my life", Robert commented. They wrote a role for Joseph as a crippled, renegade chemist a few weeks later in "The Antidote" which Robert noted "was one of our half-dozen top shows". Robert went on to do television series, such as The Name of the Game (1968) alternating lead with Gene Barry and Anthony Franciosa then later Most Wanted (1976), and he pleasantly surprised everyone with his flair for comedies in movies like 1941 (1979) and Airplane! (1980). Robert was the host of Unsolved Mysteries (1987) and did more zany humor in Caddyshack II (1988), Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996) and BASEketball (1998). He also provided the voice of the character Ultra Magnus in The Transformers: The Movie (1986). He even portrayed the no-nonsense G-man, again, in The Return of Eliot Ness (1991). Truly one of the greats, a fine gentleman and a great actor, Robert Stack died at age 84 of a heart attack on May 14, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: kdhaisch@aol.com

Spouse (1)

Rosemarie Stack (23 January 1956 - 14 May 2003) ( his death) ( 2 children)

Trade Mark (5)

Trench coat (as seen on Unsolved Mysteries)
Ominous narration (as heard on Unsolved Mysteries)
Gruff resonant voice
Square jaw and bold blue eyes
Usually played macho, assertive men.

Trivia (29)

Served as a gunnery officer in the United States Navy for more than three years during World War II.
Father of Charles Stack and actress Elizabeth Stack.
His grandfather Modini was not really an Italian. He had changed his name to further his career as an opera singer.
His ancestors were among the first to settle in California.
He met the real-life Mrs. Eliot Ness when his biography was presented on This Is Your Life (1952) in 1960. He was clearly touched at her praise of his portrayal of her late husband.
Had been diagnosed with prostate cancer the year before his death.
World War II veteran who was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, Expert Rifle Ribbon and Expert Pistol Ribbon.
Although he had nothing against comedy (he acted in several), he always said the role he always refused to play was any sort of satire or parody of Eliot Ness. He always wanted to play the role seriously.
As a child, his mother introduced him to movie stars like Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy so they could act as surrogate father figures to him. They often took him hunting and fishing.
Before he was cast as Eliot Ness on The Untouchables (1959), Van Johnson and Van Heflin were considered for the role.
In 1937, he was the United States 20-gauge champion skeet marksman, and held the record for more than 350 consecutive hits.
Portrayed General Joseph W. Stilwell in 1941 (1979), John Paul Jones in John Paul Jones (1959), and Eliot Ness on The Untouchables (1959), three real-life figures from American history.
Initially thought the television series The Untouchables (1959) would not work and only took this just to prove his point. Instead, the series became a success, and lasted four years.
In October 1940, he escorted Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer actress Laraine Day to her 20th birthday party at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Was friends with Ronald Reagan, and made monetary contributions to Reagan's presidential campaigns.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 524-526. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
By late December 1955, it was announced that Stack was to star in The Proud Ones (1956) but eventually the role was played by Robert Ryan.
Son of James Stack and Betzi Stack.
Ex-brother-in-law of Wanda Hendrix.
Received the John F. Kennedy National Award (1999).
Was an expert in the art of Skeet Shooting.
Inducted into the National Skeet Shooting Association Hall of Fame (1971).
Inducted into the California Skeet Shooting Association Hall of Fame (1981) (inaugural class).
He was awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in Palm Springs, California on December 6, 1996.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7001 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Following his death, he was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
He played Lieutenant Andrei Sobinski in To Be or Not to Be (1942) while his 1941 (1979) co-star Tim Matheson played him in the remake To Be or Not to Be (1983).
Great-uncle of Taran Killam.
Has never appeared in a film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Personal Quotes (11)

If you're a star, you go through the front door carrying the roses, instead of through the back door carrying the garbage.
As a matter of national survival, we need to do the best we can to sponsor the good guys and to do something active about bringing down the bad guys.
I think there's a definite carry-over from Eliot Ness. Somebody once said, "You really think you're Eliot Ness." No, I don't think I'm Ness, but I sure as hell know I'm not Al Capone.
It's not what you are in Hollywood - it's what people think you are.
Well, I come from a military family. Whether it's the country or city, I never liked the bad guy. I never put my arms around John Gotti, Al Capone or Lucky Luciano. For me, very simply they were the bad guys. And when I did The Untouchables (1959), I told them going in, "If you try apologizing for any of these crumb bums, get someone else to play the part.".
I am very pro law enforcement.
You go to Lifetimetv.com or unsolved.com and you personally can be an important part of solving cases. This is where the interaction, the symbiotic between the viewer and the show, is important.
I play bad golf for good charities like the L.A. police.
[on how people should find the balance between alertness and paranoia] It's like when people in government talk about a rumor that there might be some sort of a drastic happening at banks or someplace else. That's really a matter of choice and a matter of intelligence, I guess. But certainly, it's better to be overly aware than unaware.
Everyone speaks of me as a right-wing Republican, but I don't like the way we insist on giving people labels in this country.
[on John F. Kennedy, who shared a room with him in the early 1940s] We weren't exactly roommates, but we both had a key to this apartment in Hollywood and, occasionally, we both found ourselves trying to use the place at the same time. I have to say that I don't think I've ever met anyone so successful with the ladies as Jack was.

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