Robert Sterling (born William Sterling Hart; November 13, 1917 – May 30, 2006) was an American film and television actor.
Ann Sothern (1943–1949, divorced, 1 daughter)
Anne Jeffreys (1951–2006, his death, 3 sons)
Children4:, including Tisha Sterling
The son of Chicago Cubs baseball player William S. Hart, Sterling was born William Sterling Hart in New Castle, Pennsylvania, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Pittsburgh. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a clothing salesman before pursuing an acting career.
After signing with Columbia Pictures in 1939, he changed his name to Robert Sterling to avoid confusion with silent western star William S. Hart. His name was legally changed while he was a second lieutenant officer attending flight training in Marfain West Texas in 1943.
In 1939, he performed with Shemp Howard, of "The Three Stooges" fame, in the movie "Glove Slingers", and in 1961, appeared with Moe Howard, Larry Fine & Curly Joe themselves in "Fox Movietone News". In 1974 he also appeared in "The 3 Stooges Follies".
In 1941, Sterling went to MGM. He worked steadily as a supporting player for several years. After serving in World War II as a United States Army Air Corps flight instructor, he returned to Hollywood, but, by the end of the decade, his film career 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. His other film credits included roles in Return to Peyton Place(1961), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) and A Global Affair (1964).
Sterling reinvigorated his career, first with a club act with wife actress/singer Anne Jeffreys, and then becoming a fixture on television. He was cast in numerous dramatic roles in early television, when networks often televised live dramatic performances.
Sterling is perhaps most well known for starring with Jeffreys as the spirited George Kerby, to Jefferys' Marion Kerby in the television program Topper, based on the original 1937 film of the same name. It aired on the CBS network from 1953 to 1955. Leo G. Carroll starred 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".
On December 18, 1957, Sterling and Jeffreys played a couple with an unusual courtship arrangement in "The Julie Gage Story" on the first season of NBC's Wagon Train.
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 England. He portrayed 44-year-old Bob Major, a newspaper reporter from New York City, who purchased and ran 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.
In 1963, Sterling starred in The Twilight Zone episode "Printer's Devil" along side Burgess Meredith.
After some additional television work in the early 1960s, Sterling made only sporadic appearances in later shows such as CBS's Murder, She Wrote, ABC's Love, American Style and Hotel. He had also guest starred in the hospital drama The Bold Ones in 1971, the NBC sitcom The Brian Keith Show in 1974, and the miniseries Beggarman, Thief in 1979.
Sterling's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 1709 Vine Street.
Sterling was married twice. His first marriage, in 1943, was to noted actress-singer Ann Sothern. They had a daughter, Patricia (Tisha Sterling), who became an actress. Sothern and Sterling divorced in 1949. Sterling met actress-singer Anne Jeffreys soon after in his Broadway debut, and they wed in 1951 and remained married for 55 years until his death. They had three sons.
Sterling died Tuesday, May 30, 2006, aged 88, at his home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. According to the Associated Press, his son, Jeffrey, indicated that Sterling died of natural causes and also suffered from debilitating shingles for the last decade of his life.
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