Robert Middleton

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Robert Middleton
RobertMiddleton BigCombo.jpg
Middleton in The Big Combo, 1955
Born (1911-05-13)May 13, 1911
Cincinnati, Ohio
Died June 14, 1977(1977-06-14) (aged 66)
Encino,[1] California
Cause of death Congestive heart failure
Alma mater Cincinnati Conservatory of Music
Carnegie Institute of Technology
Occupation Film and television actor
Years active 1951–1977
Spouse(s) Roberta Middleton (1951-1956) (divorced), two children

Robert Middleton (born Samuel G. Messer, May 13, 1911 – June 14, 1977[2]) was an American film and television actor known for his large size and beetle-like brow. With a deep, booming voice (for which he was known as "Big Bob Middleton",[3]

Early years

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Middleton was one of four children of a building contractor.[4] He trained for a musical career at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Middleton's career in entertainment began with a job as an announcer on WLW radio in Cincinnati.[4] He worked steadily as a radio announcer and actor.[5]

One of his early works was as the narrator of the educational film "Duck and Cover". After appearing on the Broadway stage and live television, Middleton began appearing in films in 1954. He is also remembered on television as the boss Mr. Marshall on CBS's The Jackie Gleason Show and in film opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Desperate Hours (1955), Danny Kaye in The Court Jester (1955), Gary Cooper in Friendly Persuasion (1956), Richard Egan and Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender (1956), Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack in The Tarnished Angels (1958), Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark in The Law and Jake Wade (1958), and Dean Martin in Career (1959).[6][7]

Middleton appeared in many television programs in the 1950s and 1960s, including the CBS anthology series Appointment with Adventure. He played a dishonest candidate for the United States House of Representatives in an episode of ABC's The Real McCoys, starring Walter Brennan and Richard Crenna. In the story line, Middleton falsely claimed to have previously been a farmer in a bid for the farm vote. Middleton was cast as "The Tichborne Claimant" in the NBC anthology series The Joseph Cotten Show. He was cast as Arthur Sutro in the 1961 episode "The Road to Jericho" of the ABC western series, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams.

In 1958, Middleton was cast in the episode "Ambush in Laredo" as Frank Davis, who attempts in Laredo, Texas, to merge five outlaw gangs into one, in the ABC Walt Disney miniseries Texas John Slaughter, with Tom Tryon in the title role.[8]

Middleton was cast in ten episodes of the ABC family western drama, The Monroes, with costars Michael Anderson, Jr., and Barbara Hershey. In 1963 he portrayed Josh Green in the episode "Incident of the Mountain Man" on CBS's Rawhide.

Among his several appearances in the long-running Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he portrayed a gangster in high places, Mr. Koster, in the 1956 episode "The Better Bargain". In 1958, he played the villain in the first episode of NBC's Bat Masterson western series, starring Gene Barry in the title role. He appeared in four episodes of The Untouchables, including the 2 part episode, "The Unhired Assassin", as Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. In 1961, he appeared in the episode "Accidental Tourist" on the James Whitmore ABC legal drama The Law and Mr. Jones. That same year, he portrayed the highly sympathetic but fiercely dedicated state executioner in an episode of Thriller (U.S. TV series) entitled "Guillotine". He also appeared in at least one episode of Bonanza (1964). Middleton appeared as defendant "Judge Daniel Redmond" in the 1963 Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Witless Witness". In the early 1950s, Middleton appeared on Broadway in Ondine (1954), A Red Rainbow (1953), and The Wild Duck (1951).[9] Other significant film roles included The Court Jester (1955) as a grim and determined knight who jousts with Danny Kaye in the famous "pellet with the poison" sequence, and as Edwin M. Stanton in The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977). In between, he played an array of brutish mountain men, corrupt cigar-biting town bosses and lynch mob leaders. Occasionally he showed some levity, as in his recurring role as Jackie Gleason's boss on The Honeymooners (1955) sketches. Middleton guest-starred on Get Smart as the KAOS villain "The Whip", intent on hypnotizing Agent 86 in the 1970 series finale "I Am Curiously Yellow".[10]

Personal life

On July 14, 1951, Middleton married in Cincinnati; he and his wife, Roberta, separated on September 5, 1955. They had two sons, who were the subjects of a custody hearing on February 15, 1956. He sought custody in the divorce suit, charging that she had a romantic relationship with his cousin.[11]


Middleton died of congestive heart failure in Encino, California at the age of 66.

Selected filmography

Robert Middleton (left) with Peter Leeds in the TV series Bonanza (1960)


  1. ^ "Actor Dies". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. June 19, 1977. p. 4D. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  2. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 514. ISBN 9781476625997. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Deaths Elsewhere: Robert Middleton". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. June 17, 1977. p. 14. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b Alexander, Pericles (April 27, 1956). "On with the Show". The Times. Louisiana, Shreveport. p. 12-C. Retrieved November 11, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  5. ^ "".. Accessed: February 8, 2014.
  6. ^ Robert Middleton on IMDb .
  7. ^ "AFI Catalog of Feature Films". Accessed: February 8, 2014.
  8. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 116-117
  9. ^ "Robert Middleton". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 12 November 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  10. ^ Get Smart - I Am Curiously Yellow on IMDb .
  11. ^ "Actor Robert Middleton Asks Custody of Sons". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. February 16, 1956. p. 5. Retrieved November 11, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read

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