Robert Cornthwaite (actor)
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|Born||Robert O. Cornthwaite
April 28, 1917
Saint Helens, Oregon, U.S.
|Died||July 20, 2006
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
Robert O. Cornthwaite (April 28, 1917 – July 20, 2006) was an American film and television character actor who began his acting career in 1937, appearing in a college production of Twelfth Night, while attending Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
Cornthwaite was born in Saint Helens, Oregon. He said that his interest in acting began in his early teens, when he was forced to recite one line in a school play.
In the late 1930s, he enrolled in Long Beach City College and worked at radio stations in Southern California. He earned a degree from the University of Southern California after serving as an intelligence officer in the Army Air Force during World War II.
Upon his return to civilian life in 1946, Cornthwaite moved to Hollywood and soon found movie work, typically portraying scientists, lawyers and other "learned types" in a number of studio productions.
In 1951, Cornthwaite was cast in Howard Hawks's production of The Thing from Another World. His character, Dr. Carrington, the unofficial leader of an Arctic polar expedition, observes the nearby crash of an unidentified flying object, and urges his military counterparts to communicate with the creature inside, even at the cost of their own lives. This performance eventually earned him entry into the "Science Fiction Hall of Fame" in 1993.
Other notable films include The War of the Worlds, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Colossus: The Forbin Project and the Joe Dante production of Matinee, in which he shared screen time with fellow 1950s screen notables, William Schallert and Kevin McCarthy in the "film within a film", "MANT", a spoof of sci-fi films. Similarly, Cornthwaite appeared as Dr. Carrington opposite Ken Tobey (again as Hendry) in a spoof titled Attack of the B Movie Monster, shot in 1984. Expanded and retitled The Naked Monster, it was released on DVD in 2005 by Anthem Pictures.
Stage and television work
He remained primarily a stage actor throughout his career, and translated a number of plays from French to English. Balancing his theater work with "bill-paying" jobs, he appeared frequently on television, including a role as naturalist John James Audubon in three episodes of the Desilu Studios Production, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, starring Scott Forbes. He appeared twice as Joe Brennan in the first Brian Keith television series, Crusader, which aired on CBS in the middle 1950s. He appeared in five episodes of CBS's Perry Mason, including the role of murderer Herbert Dean in the series' third episode in 1957, "The Case of the Nervous Accomplice", and murderer Carl Bruner in the 1962 episode, "The Case of the Ancient Romeo".
He also made appearances during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in such series as Crossroads, The Californians, Rescue 8, The Twilight Zone, The Roaring 20s, Death Valley Days, Batman (episodes 35 and 36), The Monkees, Gidget, Laverne & Shirley, Dragnet, The Munsters, Laredo and Get Smart, in which he had a semi-recurring role as CONTROL's lab scientist, Professor Windish. One of his last major stage roles was in a La Jolla Playhouse production of The Cherry Orchard opposite Lynn Redgrave. Among Cornthwaite's last television works was a recurring role as a man with Alzheimer's on the series Picket Fences.
Cornthwaite's death was attributed to natural causes. He died at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.
- The Thing from Another World (1951)
- The Mark of the Renegade (1951)
- Monkey Business (1952)
- The War of the Worlds (1953)
- The Leather Saint (1956)
- Ten Seconds to Hell (1959)
- Day of the Outlaw (1959)
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
- The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)
- Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
- Futureworld (1976)
- Deal of the Century (1983)
- Matinee (1993)
- The Naked Monster (2005)
- Thurber, Jon (July 24, 2006). "Robert Cornthwaite, 89; Veteran TV, Film, Stage Character Actor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 May 2013.