Emhardt was a noted character actor who performed in literally hundreds
of plays, television series and movies over his long and respectable
Robert Christmas Emhardt was born July 24, 1914 in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father, Christian J. Emhardt, was a lawyer, a judge, and eventually served as the Mayor of Indianapolis (1951-1952). Robert attended Butler University in Indianapolis and began his acting education, performing in the schoolís theater. Eventually he went to England, where he joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London from 1937 to 1938. Afterwards he played in repertoire with Londonís British Broadcasting Company.
While in England he met and married his wife, British actress Silvia Sedeli. Back in the States, he went on understudy for acclaimed actor Sidney Greenstreet, reportedly both on tour and on Broadway. Throughout his career, Robertís style of acting would often be compared with that of Sidney Greenstreet (which is what makes the fact that he plays Greenstreetís character in The Maltese Falcon spoof of the C.A.P.E.R. episode "Phantom of the Drive-In" so appropriate! Definitely an in-joke there!)
Robert debuted on Broadway in the The Pirate in 1942, which starred the hugely popular team of Lynn Fontaine and Alfred Lunt. His Broadway appearances were many, including the shows Harriett (a play about author Harriette Beecher Stowe), Virginia Reel (with co-star James Daly), Ghosts and Hedda Gabler (both co-starring Herbert Berghof), Life With Mother (for which he won the Critics Circle Award as best supporting actor of the 1948-49 season), The Man (with Dorothy Gish), The Curious Savage (with Lillian Gish), The Seven Year Itch (with Vanessa Brown as The Girl), Janus (with Robert Preston), Good As Gold (which co-starred Dana Elcar and Zero Mostel), Natureís Way (with Beatrice Arthur) and The Girls in 509 (with Imogene Coca). But these Broadway productions are just a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of plays Robert Emhardt performed in over the years.
His stage experience made him a natural to carve out a niche in the burgeoning field of television at a time when teleplays were regularly performed live. As a result, he made appearances on an impressive number of anthology shows including Studio One, Suspense (based on the popular radio series) and the Kraft Television Theater where in 1958 he appeared in a two episode adaptation of "All the Kingís Men." He also played a part in the hugely popular "No Time for Sergeants" starring Andy Griffith which was presented by The United States Steel Hour. Other anthology series which Robert Emhardt appeared in over the years include The Lux Video Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alcoa Hour, General Electric Theater and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse.
Television was no stranger to Robert Emhardt. From the late 1940's on he was a regular television staple, appearing in countless series. As a character actor, his roles ranged from villains to judges and from comedic to dramatic. He seemed to be as much at home on the back of a horse in a western show as he was selling drinks as a bar owner. These varied television performances included appearances in 1960's episodes of Peter Gunn, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Playhouse 90, The Betty Hutton Show, Perry Mason, The Untouchables, Have Gun, Will Travel, Checkmate, Laramie, The Twilight Zone (in the 1961 episode "Static"), Kraft Mystery Theater, Going My Way, Route 66, The Andy Griffith Show (re-teaming with his co-star from "No Time for Sergeants"), Bonanza, The Dick Powell Show, Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Profiles in Courage, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Gomer Pyle, USMC, The Wild Wild West, Please Donít Eat the Daisies, That Girl (in the episode "Iíll Be Suing You" where he played a Judge), The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Iron Horse, Mannix, Daniel Boone and Land of the Giants.
His became a familiar face in Disney specials and movies, including the series Disneyland and the 1970 made-for-TV movie The Boy Who Stole the Elephant. His television appearances continued well into the 70's and included roles on episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D, Lock, Stock and Barrel, Adam-12, Ironside, Kung Fu, The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Night Games, Kojak, Police Woman, Mary Tyler Moore, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Starsky and Hutch (playing Harry Trask in the episode "Survival") and Quincy, M.E. Television buffs of the C.A.P.E.R. generation will probably remember his appearance on The Brady Bunch the best, when he played the judge in the episode "The Fender Benders."
His two recurring television characters both came in the 1970s, first as Mackenzie ĎMací Cory in the soap opera Another World, and then as Sgt. Vinton on The Kids from: C.A.P.E.R. Now one might start to wonder how such a noted actor ended up playing a regular on a Saturday morning kidís show, but if you look at other series from that period youíll see that it was very common for live action shows to feature veteran character actors from the past. Itís one of the unique and special pleasures afforded to fans of that generation of television. And itís clear that the cast and crew of the show both acknowledged and appreciated having such a long-time show business veteran as part of their project. In 1977, Robert again played a judge in the television remake of Itís a Wonderful Life entitled It Happened One Christmas, starring Marlo Thomas (and also featuring an appearance by fellow C.A.P.E.R. cast member, Steve Bonino!)
Robert Emhardt also made some notable appearances in feature films, including The Iron Mistress (1952), 3:10 to Yuma (1957), The Badlanders (1958), Wake Me When Itís Over (1960), Underworld U.S.A. (1961), the Elvis movies Kid Galahad (1962) and Change of Habit (1969), Sidney Lumetís The Group (1966), Hostile Guns (1967), the Hy Averback films Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? (1968) and Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970), the Disney film Rascal (1969), Lawman (1971), Die Sister, Die! (1972), Charles Bronsonís film The Stone Killer (1973), Itís Alive! (1974), Alex & the Gypsy (1976), Fraternity Row (1977), The Seniors (1978), and finally Forced Vengeance (1982) which starred Chuck Norris (whom both Cosie Costa and John Lansing worked with on more than one occasion.)
The actor spent his last years in Ojai, California, where he served on the Ojai Unified School District Board of Education for 15 years as well as serving on the Parks and Recreation Department board. He was also known in the area for his performances in local community theater productions. According to his biography on IMDb, he was actively involved with the Episcopal Church and was an avid supporter of The Boy Scouts of America, as well as being a lover of both sports and ballet. Robert Emhardt died of heart failure in Ojai, California, on December 26, 1994, survived by his wife, Silvia, and 3 children.
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