One of the memorable purveyors of screen villainy in the 60s, Theo graduated with a B.A. and M.A. in classical literature from Stanford University and was at one time artist-in-residence. The son of fur designer Theodore Meyer Marcuse (1893-1983), he served with distinction as a lieutenant aboard the U.S. submarine Tirante during World War II, earning himself a Silver Star and other citations for bravery. After the war, he trained as an actor with the company of Guthrie McClintic. Specialising in Shakespearean roles he made his Broadway debut in 1947 with “Antony and Cleopatra” (as Demetrius) opposite Katharine Cornell. He then appeared in “Medea”‘ (1949) with Judith Anderson, again staged and produced by McClintick; and “King Richard II” (1951) with Betsy Blair and Maurice Evans. At the 1959 Oregon Shakespearean Festival Theo acted in both “Twelfth Night” and in “The Life and Death of King John”‘.
His classical training stood him in good stead for the menacing roles he was tasked to play on screen, added to which was his somewhat sinister, bald-pated and shifty-eyed appearance. He also looked quite a bit older than his years may have suggested. Theo spent a long time serving his apprenticeship in smallish parts until he established a reputation as a skilled dialectician, ideally cast as assorted eastern Europeans, arrogant Nazi officers or crime figures of Arabic, Italian or Jewish extraction. He frequently veered towards comedic interpretations of villainy, notably for Get Smart (1965) and Hogan’s Heroes (1965). His Zoltan Schubach in the spy spoof The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966) (almost certainly a parody of Bond super villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld) may well have inspired the Austin Powers character Dr. Evil.
On occasion, Theo escaped his typecasting. He was particularly effective as the sympathetic scientist Dr. Noel Markham in “The Leeches”, one of the best early episodes of The Invaders (1967). He is particularly well-remembered as Korob, an extra-galactic life-form in humanoid shape who captured several crew members of the Enterprise in the Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) episode “Catspaw”‘.
Theo’s life was tragically cut short at the age of 47 as a result of a car crash while driving under the influence.
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