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|Born||Robert Irby Clarke
June 1, 1920
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||June 11, 2005
Valley Village, California, U.S.
|Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles|
|Occupation||Actor, Director, Producer, Writer|
|Spouse(s)||Alyce King (1956-1996; her death) 1 child|
Robert Clarke grew up as a movie-loving kid in his native Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He decided at an early age that he wanted to be an actor, but nevertheless suffered from stage fright in his first school productions. He attended Kemper Military School and College, planning to make a career in the service, but dropped out after his asthma prevented his serving in World War II. He later attended the University of Oklahoma, where he acted in radio plays, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he appeared on stage. He did not graduate, but hitched a ride to California to try to break into the motion picture business.
After screen tests at 20th Century-Fox and Columbia Pictures, Clarke landed a berth as a contract player at RKO Radio Pictures. His first credited role was The Falcon in Hollywood (1944), then went on to play small roles in The Body Snatcher (1945), Bedlam (1946), and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947). When RKO dropped his option three years later, he began freelancing. In the 1950s, he appeared in many classic science fiction films, including The Man from Planet X (1951), Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953) as John Rolfe, The Incredible Petrified World (1957), The Astounding She-Monster (1957), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), and The Hideous Sun Demon (1959), which Clarke wrote, directed and produced.
Clarke revealed in his 1996 autobiography To 'B' or Not to 'B' (co-written by Tom Weaver) that he made The Hideous Sun Demon for less than $50,000, including $500 for the rubberized lizard suit he wore. He shot the movie over 12 weekends to get two days' use of rental camera equipment for one day's fee. The Hideous Sun Demon was featured in the 1982 movie It Came from Hollywood which starred Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Gilda Radner, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong and, with Clarke's permission, was re-dubbed into the 1983 comedy What's Up, Hideous Sun Demon (aka Revenge of the Sun Demon) featuring the voices of Jay Leno and Cam Clarke reprising his father's role. (An entire book on "The Hideous Sun Demon," "Scripts from the Crypt: 'The Hideous Sun Demon'" by Tom Weaver, was published by BearManor Media in 2011.)
From the 1950s through the 1980s, he regularly appeared on television series. He made two guest appearances on Perry Mason, including the role of circus co-owner and murderer Jerry Franklin in the 1960 episode, "The Case of the Clumsy Clown." Other television appearances included The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Dragnet, Sea Hunt, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, General Hospital, Marcus Welby, M.D., Adam-12, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Hawaii Five-O, Trapper John, M.D., Fantasy Island, Dallas, Simon & Simon, Knight Rider, Murder She Wrote, Matt Houston, Falcon Crest, Hotel, Dynasty, and dozens of others. He also played a supporting role in 1991's Haunting Fear, joining a cast which included Brinke Stevens, Jan Michael Vincent and Karen Black. The 1997 biographical documentary Lugosi: Hollywood's Dracula featured narration which he provided. Fittingly, Clarke's last appearance was in the movie The Naked Monster, a send-up of the classic science fiction films of the 1950s, in 2005.
Clarke married Alyce King of the singing King Sisters in 1956 and, a decade later, began appearing on TV on The King Family Show (1965), but not for his musical prowess. On the program he appeared in comedy sketches and sentimental readings. He was the father of noted actor and voice artist Cam Clarke.
Also in the mid-1960s, Clarke was the spokesperson for a (now long defunct) local Los Angeles/Southern California furniture and appliance store chain called Gold's Giant Stores.
His autobiography, To "B" or Not to "B": A Film Actor's Odyssey, was published in 1996. He died June 11, 2005 in Valley Village, California from complications of diabetes.
- San Quentin (1946)
- Return of the Bad Men (1948)
- Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951)
- The Man from Planet X (1951)
- Captive Women (1952)
- The Fabulous Senorita (1952)
- Girl With an Itch (1958)
- Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)
- Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953)