The son of a wholesale grocer who later became one of the founders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Robert Shayne studied business administration at Boston University. Intending to study for the ministry, Shayne opted instead to work as field secretary for the Unitarian Layman's League. He went on to sell real estate during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s before heading northward to launch an acting career. After Broadway experience, Shayne was signed to a film contract at RKO radio in 1934. When this led nowhere, Shayne returned to the stage. While appearing with Katharine Hepburn in the Philip Barry play Without Love, Shayne was again beckoned to Hollywood, this time by Warner Bros. Most of his feature film roles under the Warner banner were of the sort that any competent actor could have played; he was better served by the studio's short subjects department, which starred him in a series of 2-reel "pocket westerns" built around stock footage from earlier outdoor epics. He began free-lancing in 1946, playing roles of varying size and importance at every major and minor outfit in Hollywood. In 1951, Shayne was cast in his best-known role: Inspector Henderson on the long-running TV adventure series Superman. He quit acting in the mid-1970s to become an investment banker with the Boston Stock Exchange. The resurgence of the old Superman series on television during this decade thrust Shayne back into the limelight, encouraging him to go back before the cameras. He was last seen in a recurring role on the 1990 Superman-like weekly series The Flash. Reflecting on his busy but only fitfully successful acting career, Robert Shayne commented in 1975 that "It was work, hard and long; a terrible business when things go wrong, a rewarding career when things go right."