Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Robert Cornthwaite Passes On

It seems as if this month of July has been one for celebrity deaths. The latest celebrity to die is veteran character actor Robert Cornthwaite. Cornthwaithe is perhaps best remembered by audiences as scientist Dr. Carrington in the original version of The Thing. He died of natural causes at the age of 89 on July 20.

Cornthwaite was born in St. Helens, Oregon on April 28, 1917. He became interested in acting as a teenager. At Reed College in St. Helens he made his first appearance on stage in a production of Twelfth Night. During World War II he served in the Army Air Corps.

After the war Cornthwaite resumed his acting career. He made his film debut in 1950 in an uncredited role in the movie Union Station. Ironically, his first major role would also possibly be his most famous. In 1951 he appeared as Dr. Carrington in The Thing. Cornthwaite most often played the role of the learned professional, most often scientists, physicians, and lawyers. In 1952 he appeared as Dr. Zoldeck in the classic comedy Monkey Business. He also played Dr. Pryor in the 1953 classic War of the Worlds. He also appeared in the films Colossus: the Forbin Project, Futureworld, and Matinee. His last appearance on film was in the low budget comedy The Naked Monster as, fittingly enough, Dr. Carrington.

As the Fifties progressed, Cornthwaite started appearing more and more often in television. In fact, he is perhaps one of the most seen faces on television. Making his television debut in 1953 on Cavalcade of America, he would continue to work in television as late as 1996 (in an episode of The Pretender). With a television career as long and prolific as his, Cornthwaite appeared on several classic shows. Among the shows he made guest appearaces on were Studio 57, Disneyland, The Rifleman, Maverick, The Twilight Zone, The Untouchables, Thriller, The Andy Griffith Show, Get Smart, The Monkees, Ellery Queen, Beauty and the Beast, and Cheers. He was a regular on the TV series The Adventures of Jim Bowie and Picket Fences. In all Cornthwaite appeared in over 250 movies and TV shows.

I always liked Robert Cornthwaite. With his silver mane (he went grey while still young) and aristocratic mien he was perhaps the ideal actor to play scientists and physicians. What is more, his talent was not limited to those sorts of roles. During his career, Cornthwaite played in everything from comedies to Westerns. He even played the chief henchman to the villainous Archer (played by Art Carney) on the Sixties comedy Batman! Quite simply, Robert Cornthwaite was literally one of a dying breed, a talented character actor with the versatility to play a large number of different roles.

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