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Robert Stack

From Academic Kids

Robert Stack (January 13, 1919May 14, 2003), born Robert Langford Modini, was an American actor famous for his film acting as well as his role in the television series The Untouchables and as host of Unsolved Mysteries.

Stack was born in Los Angeles, California but spent his early childhood growing up in Europe. He became fluent in French and Italian at an early age, but he did not learn English until returning to Los Angeles. Stack's father died at an early age and his mother raised him and younger brother. Stack always spoke of his mother with the greatest respect and love. When he wrote his autobiography Straight Shooting, he included a picture of he and his mother. He captioned it "Me and my best girl".

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Robert Stack c1960

Stack took drama courses at the University of Southern California. His deep voice and good looks attracted producers in Hollywood. When Stack visited the set of Universal Studios at age 20, producer Joe Pasternak offered him an opportunity to enter the business. Recalled Stack, "He said 'How'd you like to be in pictures? We'll make a test with Helen Parrish, a little love scene.' Helen Parrish was a beautiful girl. 'Gee, that sounds keen,' I told him. I got the part." Stack's first film teamed him with popular starlet Deanna Durbin. He was the first actor to give Durbin an on screen kiss. As hard to believe today, this film was considered controversial at the time! Stack won acclaim for his next role, the 1940 film [The Mortal Storm]. He played a young man who joins the Nazi party. This film was one of the first to speak out against Hitler. As a youth, Stack admitted that he had a crush on Carole Lombard and in 1942 he appeared with her in To Be Or Not To Be. He admitted he was terrified going into this role! He credits Lombard with giving him many tips on acting and with being his mentor. Sadly, Lombard was killed in a plane crash shortly after this film was released.

During World War II, Stack served as gunnery instructor in the United States Navy. He continued his movie career and appeared in such films as Fighter Squadron (1948), A Date With Judy (1948) and The Bullfighter And The Lady (1951). In 1954, Stack was given his most important movie role. He appeared opposite John Wayne in The High And The Mighty. Stack played the pilot of an airliner that develops engine trouble and comes apart under the stress.

In 1957, Stack was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Written on the Wind. He starred in more than 40 films, including The Iron Glove (1954); Good Morning Miss Dove (1955) and Is Paris Burning? (1966). Known for his steadfast, humorless demeanor, he made fun of his own persona in comedies such as 1941 (1979), Airplane! (1980), Caddyshack II (1988), the animated Beavis and Butthead Do America (1996), and Baseketball (1998).

Stack depicted the crimefighting Eliot Ness in the television drama The Untouchables from 1959 to 1963. The show portrayed the ongoing battle between gangsters and federal agents in a Prohibition-era Chicago. His role on the show brought Stack a best actor Emmy Award in 1960. The Untouchables was one of the first "realistic" cop shows much like Dragnet. Stack also starred in three other series, The Name Of The Game (1968-1971), Most Wanted (1976) and Strike Force (1981).

He began hosting Unsolved Mysteries in 1988, where his deep, ominous voice and expressionless face lent an authentic seriousness to the show's dark subject matter.

Stack had undergone radiation therapy for prostate cancer in October 2002. He died of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles in May 2003. He is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California.

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