9 October 1916, Robinson, Illinois, USA
Robert Brubaker, son of George Brubaker and descendant of Jonas Sparks, a friend of frontiersman Daniel Boone, was born October 9, 1916 in Robinson, Illinois, a little town two hundred and ten miles south of Chicago and seven miles from the Wabash River. Probably the towns only claim to fame is that it's the home of Heath Candy Company. Bard H...
Robert Brubaker, son of George Brubaker and descendant of Jonas Sparks, a friend of frontiersman Daniel Boone, was born October 9, 1916 in Robinson, Illinois, a little town two hundred and ten miles south of Chicago and seven miles from the Wabash River. Probably the towns only claim to fame is that it's the home of Heath Candy Company. Bard Heath, the man who developed the English Toffee that eventually became the Heath Candy Bar, was the best man at Bob's parents wedding. Bob attended Robinson Township High School, which was where he became interested in theatrics. Bob started as a freshman, appearing in every production that was at the high school. When a lot of kids are growing up they want to be a soldier or a fireman; Bob had always wanted to be an actor. While in high school Bob was captain of the debating team and won the State Oratory contest. He had a public speaking teacher whose name was Helen Mowry, who was the one that really urged him about continuing his ambition as an actor. As a result of her urgings and her talking and her pushing, she suggested that Bob go to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, at the Annie Mae Swift School of Speech. Bob's freshman year was in September of 1934 and he decided they were trying to teach him to be a teacher instead of how to be an actor. While there he did a show, which was a revival of a musical comedy called "Good News", in which he played the comedy lead, and it was a tremendous success. He got reviews in the Chicago Tribune where the critic stated he liked Bob's characterization of "Bobby" better than that of Jack Haley, which Bob felt was quite an accomplishment. After two years, Bob decided to leave school and learn his profession on the job. Martin Burton, who had, in conjunction with George Condoff, become producers of the first musical ever done by the Federal Theater, had seen Bob's work in "Good News", and offered him a great opportunity. The Federal Theater was the only time that this government had ever subsidized the theater. That was during the Works Progress Administration when Franklin D. Roosevelt was President. In the summer of 1936, Bob went to work in the Federal Theater in a show called "Oh Say Can You Sing, Dance or Act". One of the people in that show who went on to become very famous was a young seventeen-year old kid who did a tap dancing number with a pair of drumsticks. His name was Buddy Rich. That was Bob's first professional show and he worked in that until September 1937. Then, he had to make a decision. There was two ways he could go - he could go to New York or go to Hollywood, but was much more drawn to Hollywood than he was to New York. Which, as a matter of fact, may have been a decision that worked against him rather than for him, because when he got to Hollywood in 1937 there was a great feeling, and there was for many years afterward, that the only people who knew how to act had to be brought out from New York. The first thing Bob did when he arrived in Hollywood was to go back to school. He went to a dramatic school by the name of "Bards". There are some well-known alumni from "Bards" that were in school when he was there: Alan Ladd, Jack Carson and Gig Young. Bob was with "Bards" off and on for over two years and finally became a teacher there to help pay for his tuition. While teaching there, Bob was the principal person who taught Turhan Bey how to speak English. In addition to attending "Bards", Bob worked on a number of radio shows at the original KMPC out on Wilshire Boulevard opposite the Beverly Hotel. At that time, Clete Roberts was staff announcer and William Conrad was one of the staff actors. While at "Bards", Bob was brought to the attention of a man who was at that time head of Paramount Studios on the West Coast. They used to have a talent show every so often at "Bards" and all the major talent scouts and casting directors and hierarchy of the production side of the studios that Ben Bard could get into the theater would come to see these talent shows. They did original skits and also scenes from plays and motion pictures. Bob did a scene as a young drunk, and when this guy saw him - it was right at the time that Warner Brothers had picked up John Garfield and he made a big splash. When Bob first came to Hollywood, he was told he was not a leading man. His hair was curly and they typed him right away in what was called a juvenile character because, in those days, the leading man was the Robert Taylor / Tyrone Power type -- the very handsome, almost beautiful, absolute straight slick-down patent leather hair. Bob went through all kinds of hell; they tried to straighten my hair. I went to Max Factors and you wouldn't believe the agony that he went through and they could do nothing. Bob's hair is curly and that's all there is to it; they were never able to straighten it. But anyway, this guy said they wanted Bob to be Paramount's answer to John Garfield, because that was sort of a breakthrough in that they were accepting a man that looked like that as a possible leading man. All these contracts were drawn up and sent back to be consummated by the head office in New York, and then there was a big rollover in the studio and all the people that were in the top echelon were all gone and nothing ever came of it. This was one of Bob's first "almosts" that didn't happen. Bob was involved in a radio program called "Gateway to Hollywood" in 1939. The producer of the show was a man from RKO named Jesse L. Lasky, and Bob appeared with guest stars such as Merle Oberon and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. It was a talent search and Bob made his way to the finals of that particular show. The first prize was a year contract for RKO. "Josephine Cottle" won the female prize and was given the name of Gale Storm; the fellow who won was Lee Bonnell, who later married Gale Storm. After leaving "Bards", Bob became involved with the Bliss-Hayden Theater for a time and then had the opportunity to go to New York and landed the male lead in a play called "Days of Our Youth" that was being done for the opening of The New School of Social Research, which was off-Broadway. That was in 1941. It was directed by John Baird who had been one of Bob's teachers at Northwestern. They had outstanding critical reviews from the major critics in the New York area, so much so that there were a couple of guys who were looking to invest some money. Their names were Olsen and Johnson, well-known comics who wanted to bring the show to Broadway. They didn't think it was necessary to go out of town, so what they did was post an Equity Bond and got a theater lined up on Broadway. The show closed at The New School of Social Research and went into rehearsals for uptown, or Broadway, and, during this time, December seventh came along. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and they paid off the Equity Bond and that was the end of that. Bob eventually returned to Hollywood in the early part of 1942, and subsequently volunteered for the US Army Air Force, was selected, went into the cadet program and became a pilot. He was an instructor and then became an aircraft commander in B-24's. His group was selected to go overseas two different times - They got as far as San Francisco and, both times, they canceled their orders and they ended the war at Gowen Field up in Boise, Idaho. Bob was discharged from the service on December 15, 1945, and returned to Hollywood, and had to start all over again. When you're gone for any period of time, memory is very short in this town or in New York. He did some more radio work and performed on some of the major radio shows of that period. Then, Bob decided to return to New York, where he was a Hollywood actor in New York, and, at that time, they didn't have much use for Hollywood actors in New York, so he went to work in the men's section for Lord and Taylor Department Store to survive. Then, Bob was recalled into the service. Anybody who was a pilot at the end of World War II and in physically good health was not discharged, just given separation papers from active duty but kept on active reserve. Bob was recalled to fly the airlift in 1949 on what they called a contract and was supposed to be in the service for eighteen months. He was to serve six months on the airlift, and then spend a year in the training command as an instructor. Bob did his six months on the airlift, flying one hundred and thirty missions into Berlin. When he returned home at the end of his six months, he was greeted by General Curtis LeMay, who was the Commanding General of the Strategic Air Command. General LeMay put out an emergency requisition letter saying that all four-engine pilots returning from the Berlin Airlift with bombardment experience would be assigned to the Strategic Air Command. So, instead of going into the training command for a year, Bob went into the Strategic Air Command and, instead of getting out in a year, he finally got out in February of 1954. During his second tour in the Air Force, Bob flew B-29's and was involved in the Korean War. He flew almost one hundred missions over Korea during the nine months he was over there. When he got out of the service, he came back to Hollywood and started his career all over again. He still had some friends who were active in the business. One was a woman by the name of Eve McVeagh. She had an agent that she steered him to by the name of Leon O. Lance (aka Leo Lance). Bob was very fortunate as he started working almost immediately in television. One of the very first shows that he was involved with was Reed Hadley's show, Public Defender (1954). Bob went on to work on Gunsmoke (1955). The first five years, off and on, he played "Jim Buck", the stagecoach driver; then from the fifth year to the nineteenth year he did a lot of Gunsmoke (1955)'s as a guest; and then when Glenn Strange, who played "Sam" the bartender, died, Bob took over that job as "Floyd". Bob also co-starred as "Deputy Blake" in the 1958 season of U.S. Marshal (1958) with John Bromfield. He also worked on such shows as Mr. Lucky (1959), Broken Arrow (1956), I Love Lucy (1951), Tombstone Territory (1957), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964), The Deputy (1959), Tales of Wells Fargo (1957), _"The Rough Riders" (1950)_ (qv, _"The Invaders" (1970)_, Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958), The Andy Griffith Show (1960), Bonanza (1959), "The Texan" (1950)_, _"Kojak" (1970)_, The Rebel (1959), The Untouchables (1959), The Man from Blackhawk (1959), Dragnet (1951), Two Faces West (1960), Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964), Death Valley Days (1952), Cheyenne (1955), The F.B.I. (1965), The Twilight Zone (1959), Navy Log (1955), Daniel Boone (1964), My Three Sons (1960), Tarzan (1966), Perry Mason (1957), Wide Country (1962), Dr. Kildare (1961), Kung Fu (1972), The Streets of San Francisco (1972), Barnaby Jones (1973), and later as a regular on Days of Our Lives (1965). Bob was signed by MGM to star in the series The Asphalt Jungle (1961) that Jack Warden eventually did. The networks were extremely powerful as far as what's on the air and what's not, and who gets on the air and who doesn't. When they received notice that MGM had signed Bob, they sent a query to MGM and said that they wanted an actor named Jack Warden, who was in New York, and asked, Who is Bob Brubaker? That was the syndrome about New York actors that was very prevalent in this business at one time. Anyway, they had to pay Bob off for the series, but he never got on the tube with it and he would much rather have gotten on the tube than to be paid off. Bob was involved in some major motion pictures in minor roles. He was "Major Hap Arnold" in The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), with Gary Cooper; as a motion picture director with James Cagney in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957); the airport doctor in Airport (1970); a ferryboat operator in Barquero (1970) with Lee Van Cleef; in My Man Godfrey (1957) with June Allyson in which he played a fellow who had to carry a chimp above his head across a crowded dance floor. The last picture he did of any magnitude was The Sting (1973). He was in the famous gambling scene on the train when Redford really puts it to Robert Shaw. Other films included two Audie Murphy westerns, Apache Rifles (1964) and 40 Guns to Apache Pass (1966). Bob's favorite role was in the summer of 1954 after he was discharged from the Air Force. He was stationed in Savannah, Georgia, and had been active while there in the little theater. Bob Porterfield, who owned the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, saw him do the lead in "Detective Story" and asked him to spend the summer at his theater. Bob went there and that summer he did "Stalag 17" and "Mister Roberts", but his favorite role of all time was when he had the opportunity to play "Willy Loman" in "Death of a Salesman". Bob told me that he had a lot of thrills as far as the theater is concerned, but the greatest thrill of his life was on opening night of "Death of a Salesman". At the end of the final curtain, there was absolute silence for about thirty seconds and then there was thunderous applause and shouts of "Bravo!" and stomping of feet; and again, very well received by the critics. Bob enjoyed his work on Gunsmoke (1955). He loved the opportunity to work in it and with the people who were part of it. He and Dennis Weaver became friends and their sons went to school together. He had worked with James Arness prior to the time he took on the "Matt Dillon" role. One of those things Bob was involved in was the first experiment that NBC did - A thing called "Matinee Theater". An hour color live production, a different one every day at noon. Bob and Arness did "Damian and Phythias". In the late 1970's, Bob took on employment as the Director of the Training Department for before-needs salespeople at Forest Lawn. Bob, after retiring from his employment, moved away from Los Angeles to a smaller California community, where he now (2008) resides.
Robert Brubaker's FILMOGRAPHY
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Robert Brubaker'S roles
Al Jones, Jess Brown