Quiet, soft-spoken Robert grew up in California and had some stage experience with the Pasadena Playhouse before entering films in 1931. His movie career consisted of playing characters who were charming, good-looking–and bland. In fact, his screen image was such that he usually never got the girl. Louis B. Mayer would say, “He has no sex appeal,” but he had a work ethic that prepared him for every role that he played. And he did play in as many as eleven films per year for a decade starting with The Black Camel (1931). He was notable as the spy in Alfred Hitchcock’s Secret Agent (1936), but the ’40s was the decade in which he was to have most of his best roles. These included Northwest Passage (1940); Western Union (1941); and H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941). Good roles followed, from the husband of Dorothy McGuirein Claudia (1943) to the detective in Crossfire (1947), but they were becoming scarce. In 1949, Robert started a radio show called “Father Knows Best” wherein he played Jim Anderson, an average father with average situations–a role which was tailor-made for him. Basically retiring from films, he starred in this program for five years on radio before it went to television in 1954. After a slight falter in the ratings and a switch from CBS to NBC, it became a mainstay of television until it was canceled in 1960. He continued making guest appearances on various television shows and working in television movies. In 1969, he starred as Dr. Marcus Welby in the TV movie Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Matter of Humanities (1969). The Marcus Welby series that followed ran from 1969 through 1976 and featured James Brolin as his assistant, Dr. Steven Kiley–the doc with the bike. After the series ended, Robert, now in his seventies, finally licked his 30-year battle with alcohol and occasionally appeared in television movies through the 1980s.
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