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Robert Sterling, born William Sterling Hart (November 13, 1917 – May 30, 2006), was an American film and television actor.

Life and career

Early life

The son of baseball player and umpire Bill Hart, he was born in New Castle, Pennsylvaniamarker, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Pittsburghmarker. He attended the University of Pittsburghmarker and worked as a clothing salesman before pursuing an acting career.

Film

After signing with Columbia Pictures in 1939, he changed his name to Robert Sterling to avoid confusion with silent western star William S. Hart.In 1941, Sterling went to MGM. He worked steadily as a supporting player for several years. After serving in World War II as an Army Air Force flight instructor, he returned to Hollywood, but by the end of the decade, his film career had faltered. He did, however, play the non-singing role of Steve Baker, opposite Ava Gardner as Julie, in the hit MGM 1951 film version of Show Boat.

Television

Sterling reinvigorated his career, first with a club act with wife Anne Jeffreys, and then becoming a fixture on television. He was cast in numerous dramatic roles on early television, when networks often televised live dramatic performances.

Sterling is perhaps most well known, however, for starring with Jeffreys, as the spirited George Kerby (to Jefferys' Marion Kerby) in the television program Topper, which appeared from 1953 to 1955. Veteran Leo G. Carroll appeared in the title role. Wife Marion Kerby was referred to as "the ghostess with the mostest", while Sterling's character was known as "that most sporty spirit".

In the 1961-1962 television season, Sterling co-starred with George Chandler and Reta Shaw in CBS's Ichabod and Me a sitcom set in New Englandmarker. He portrayed 44-year-old Bob Major, a newspaper reporter from New York Citymarker, who purchased and the paper in a small town called Phippsboro. Chandler played the former editor and municipal traffic commissioner. Shaw appeared as Sterling's aunt and housekeeper.

After some additional television and film work in the early 1960s, including Return to Peyton Place and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in 1961 and A Global Affair in 1964, Sterling essentially retired, making only sporadic appearances with Jeffreys in later shows such as CBS's Murder, She Wrote and ABC's Hotel. He also guest starred in 1974 in the NBC sitcom The Brian Keith Show.

Personal life

Sterling was married twice. His first marriage, in 1943, was to noted actress Ann Sothern. They had a daughter, Patricia (Tisha Sterling), who became an actress. Sothern and Sterling divorced in 1949.

Sterling met Jeffreys soon after in his Broadwaymarker debut, and they were married in 1951. They had three sons: Jeffrey, Dana, and Tyler.

Death

Sterling died Tuesday, May 30 2006, aged 88, at his home in Brentwood, Californiamarker. According to the Associated Press, his son, Jeffrey, indicated that Sterling died of natural causes, but had suffered from debilitating shingles for the last decade of his life ([296278]).

References

  1. TV.com Ichabod and Me: http://www.tv.com/ichabod-and-me/show/4390/summary.html


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