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June 26, 1931 |
Long Beach, California, USA
|Spouse(s)||Dottie Harmony (1961–1976) (divorced)|
Robert Colbert (born July 26, 1931, in Long Beach, California) is an American actor most noted for his leading role portraying Dr. Doug Phillips on the ABC television series The Time Tunnel and his two appearances as Brent Maverick, a third Maverick brother in the ABC/Warner Brothers western, Maverick starring James Garner, Jack Kelly and Roger Moore.
Colbert began acting when he was a soldier based on the Pacific island of Okinawa. He was a clerk typist with a Military Police unit and also worked as a disc jockey for Radio Free Asia in the evenings. A woman in Air Force Special Services heard his voice and recruited him to act in a performance of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Hooked on acting, Colbert returned to the United States and performed on stage, where he was noticed by Mickey Shaughnessy, who recommended him to a talent agency.
Colbert appeared in a number of minor films, including Have Rocket, Will Travel starring the Three Stooges, and was signed to a contract with Warner Brothers and subsequently cast in the feature film A Fever in the Blood (1961) along with many guest appearances on television series.
In 1960, he appeared in three episodes of the ABC/WB western, Colt .45, including the episode "Showdown at Goldtown", with Donald May in the lead series role as Sam Colt, Jr. Colbert plays Johnny Moore, a young ex-convict whose parole officer is Sam Colt. Moore drives a stagecoach in a mining town. The outlaw Clay Hooper, portrayed by Harry Shannon, pressures Moore, his old partner in crime, to help him rob a gold shipment. Ruta Lee is cast in this episode as Molly Perkins, and Dan Sheridan plays the part of Driscoll. Colbert also appeared as Bill Mannix with Vaughn Taylor as Dr. Bryan Craig in another 1960 Colt .45 episode, entitled "Strange Encounter."
On October 28, 1960, Colbert was cast as Army Corporal Howie Burch in the episode "Two Trails to Santa Fe" of the ABC/WB western series Cheyenne, with Clint Walker in the titular role. In the story line, Burch tries to steal gold from miners working a claim near the fort where he is stationed. He is also trying to win back the affection of his former wife (Randy Stuart), whose unsuspecting husband (Richard Webb) is one of the miners. Then the Army decides to abandon the fort. Cheyenne Bodie, meanwhile, comes to the defense of an Apache woman, Aleeah (Sonya Wilde), left for dead after the masaacre of her white husband.
In 1961, Colbert was forced by Warner Brothers to dress exactly as lookalike James Garner had done in Garner's earlier role of Bret Maverick to play a character called "Brent Maverick." Thinking of the inevitable comparisons to Garner that were bound to ensue, Colbert famously said to his bosses, "Put me in a dress and call me Brenda, but don't do this to me!" Garner had been a huge success in the role and was in the process of moving into a movie career in the wake of winning a contentious lawsuit with Warner Brothers. Colbert played his part in two episodes and was not called back for the following season since the studio decided to alternate new episodes featuring only Bret and Brent's brother "Bart Maverick" (Jack Kelly) with reruns from earlier seasons starring the popular Garner during the series' fifth and final season.
Before Roger Moore, who played Bart's cousin Beau Maverick, left Maverick during the same season in which Colbert appeared, the studio shot numerous publicity photographs of Colbert, Kelly and Moore cavorting in costume together that are readily accessible on Google Images; the rights to many of the pictures are currently owned by Getty Images. By the time Colbert's two episodes were telecast, however, Moore had already quit the show and Moore and Colbert never appeared together in the series itself. James Garner reminisced in his Archive of American Television interview that the studio lit Colbert darkly as well as dressing him like Garner in an attempt to mislead the public that Garner had returned but that when Colbert spoke, the audience realized that it wasn't Garner. A viewing of the episodes themselves, however, reveals that Garner was mistaken about this and that Colbert was lit normally during his shows although he was certainly dressed precisely as Garner had been earlier in the series.
In 1962, Colbert played Lonzo Green in the episode "Footlights" of the ABC/WB crime drama, The Roaring 20s. Moreover, he guest starred on most of the ABC/WB series, including 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye (seven times each), Bronco (six times), Bourbon Street Beat (three times), Sugarfoot, The Alaskans, and Surfside 6 (twice each), and Cheyenne and Lawman, once each.
In 1965 Colbert made two guest appearances on Perry Mason as Deputy District Attorney Snell; first in "The Case of the Grinning Gorilla," then in "The Case of the Hasty Honeymooner." Raymond Burr appeared as the oft-filmed attorney in this television series based on Erle Stanley Gardner's novels.
In 1966-1967, Colbert played the part of Doug Phillips in thirty episodes of the Irwin Allen science fiction ABC series, The Time Tunnel, the second lead in a show about two time travelers. James Darren and Lee Meriweather starred with Colbert. Historical events like the Alamo, the Titanic, Krakatoa, and Custer's last stand were fictionalized. In 1968, Colbert appeared in the final episode of the first season of Hawaii Five-O.
Colbert was married to dancer/songwriter Dotty Harmony in 1961 for 15 years. Harmony wrote for Metric Music with Sharon Sheeley and had songs recorded by Rick Nelson. They have two children, Cami and Clay. Cami is married to filmmaker Jon Freeman (Flesh Wound Films), who produces the highly successful "Crusty Demon" series of DVDs.
Today Robert Colbert is 'retired' though he still makes occasional cameo appearances, takes part in science fiction conventions and Western conventions all across America, and enjoys celebrity golf tournaments for fundraising events.