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Robert O. Cornthwaite (April 28, 1917July 20, 2006) was an Americanmarker film and television character actor who began his acting career in 1937, appearing in a college production of Twelfth Night, while attending Reed Collegemarker in Portland, Oregonmarker.

Cornthwaite was born in Saint Helensmarker, Oregonmarker. He said that his interest in acting began in his early teens, when he was forced to recite one line in a school play.

In the late 1930s he enrolled in Long Beach City Collegemarker and worked at radio stations in Southern California. He earned a degree from the University of Southern Californiamarker after serving as an intelligence office in the Army Air Force during World War II.

Upon his return to civilian life in 1946, Cornthwaite moved to Hollywood and soon found movie work, typically portraying scientists, lawyers and other "learned types" in a number of studio productions.

In 1951, Cornthwaite was cast in Howard Hawks's production of The Thing from Another World. His character, Dr. Carrington, the unofficial leader of an Arctic Polar Expedition (a scientific group dismissed by one Air Force general as a "bunch of eggheads"), observes the nearby crash of an unidentified flying object, and urges his military liaison, USAF Captain Hendry, to mount a trip to the site to investigate. As portrayed by 50's sci-fi movie stalwart Kenneth Tobey, Hendry operates as an "All-American" counterpoint, a competent team player (and love interest for the film's heroine, Margaret Sheridan). As part of the generation that had just won WWII, the Captain stands in stark contrast to Carrington's imperious intellectual who, with his silvered hair and attired in a blue yacht club blazer, casts an aristocratic pose.

Upon awakening the "Thing" and discovering its true 'vegetable' nature, Carrington immediately identifies with it, applauding the absence of emotional and sexual 'weaknesses' in its makeup, traits which he believes make it "man's superior, superior in every way." The Thing soon attempts to start reproducing itself, and Dr. Carrington moves to block all attempts to recapture or kill it, yet recognizes the Thing has no more regard for humans as they would "a row of cabbages.". In his final confrontation with the creature, he nearly dies in a desperate and foolhardy attempt to communicate with this "super carrot". This singular performance eventually earned him entry into the "Science Fiction Hall of Fame" in 1993.

Other notable films include: Hawks' Monkey Business, The War of the Worlds, Ten Seconds to Hell, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (both for director Robert Aldrich), Colossus: The Forbin Project and the Joe Dante production of Matinée, in which he shared screen time with fellow 50's screen notables, William Schallert and Kevin McCarthy in the "film within a film," "MANT," a spoof of sci-fi films. Similarly, Cornthwaite appeared as Dr. Carrington opposite Ken Tobey (again as Hendry) in a spoof titled "Attack of the B Movie Monster," shot in 1984. Retitled "The Naked Monster," it was released on DVD in 2006 by Anthem Pictures.

He remained primarily a stage actor throughout his career, and translated a number of plays from French to English. Balancing his theater work with "bill-paying" jobs, he appeared frequently on television, including a role as naturalist John James Audubon in an episode of the Desilu Studios Production, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, starring Scott Forbes. He appeared twice as Joe Brennan in the first Brian Keith series, Crusader, which aired on CBS in the middle 1950s. He appeared during the 1960s and 1970s in such series as The Twilight Zone, Batman, The Monkees, Gidget, Laverne & Shirley, Dragnet, The Munsters) and Get Smart, in which he had a semi-recurring role. One of his last major stage roles was in a La Jolla Playhousemarker production of The Cherry Orchard opposite Lynn Redgrave. Cornthwaite's last television work was a recurring role as an Alzheimer's victim on the series Picket Fences.

Cornthwaite's death was attributed to natural causes. He died at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hillsmarker, Californiamarker.

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