Robert Sterling

Active - 1937 - 1979  |   Born - Nov 13, 1917 in New Castle, Pennsylvania  |   Died - May 30, 2006   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of professional ballplayer Walter Hart, William Sterling Hart attended the University of Pittsburgh, then worked as a clothing salesman before entering show business. He was signed by Columbia in 1939, where his name was changed to Robert Sterling so as to avoid confusion with silent western star William S. Hart. At Columbia, Sterling played bits in such features as Golden Boy and Blondie Brings Up Baby, and was also seen in the studio's short subjects product, notably as star of a 2-reel dramatization of the life of rubber magnate Charles Goodyear. In 1941, Sterling moved to MGM, where he was groomed as a potential Robert Taylor replacement. During his MGM tenure, he married actress Ann Sothern, with whom he appeared in Ringside Maisie. The union, which lasted until 1949, produced a daughter, future actress Tisha Sterling. Following war service, Sterling's career fell into a rut of colorless second leads. He finally achieved stardom on the delightful TV sitcom fantasy Topper, co-starring with his second wife Anne Jeffreys. After Topper completed its two-year run in 1955, the Sterlings took to the road in touring stage productions; they reteamed before the cameras in Love That Jill, a 1958 TV comedy which perished after 13 weeks. Sterling's additional TV work included the hosting chores on the 1956-57 season of The 20th Century-Fox Hour, and the starring role of small-town editor Robert Major on the 1961 sitcom Ichabod and Me. He was also one of several actors seriously considered for the role of Perry Mason before Raymond Burr won the part. Robert Sterling retired from acting in the 1970s to run a successful computer business; he has kept so low a public profile in the last two decades that many sources have referred to the still-active Anne Jeffreys as Sterling's widow!

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