Thursday, June 11, 2020

Seven Things to Know About Robert Lansing

1. Robert Lansing was born Robert Howell Brown, but had to change his name when he joined the Actors' Equity Association because another actor was named Robert Brown. According to Allan T. Duffin's The 12 O'Clock High Logbook, he took his last name from Lansing, Michigan, as he was about to board a bus to that city.

2. After studying at the Actors Studio, Lansing made his Broadway debut in 1951 in Stalag 17. He worked on the stage, in live television, and made his film debut in the title role of 4D Man (1959). His next movie was The Pusher (1960), which Harold Robbins adapted from an Ed McBain novel. He played tough Manhattan detective Steve Carella, a role that he would reprise in the TV series 87th Precinct (1961-62). Based on McBain's gritty crime novels, the series is well regarded now, but was cancelled by NBC after a single season. Gena Rowlands portrayed Carella's deaf wife Teddy in four episodes.

Lansing on 12 O'Clock High.
3. Lansing's most successful TV role was probably Brigadier General Frank Savage in 12 O'Clock High, which debuted on ABC in 1964. However, after one season, his character was written out of the show. In a TV Guide article, executive producer Quinn Martin blamed ABC's decision to move the show from Friday at ten o'cock to 7:30 on Monday: "ABC is very high on Lansing, and asked me to find another series for him. They said they want him for a 10 P.M. show. Had we remained at 10 P.M., Bob would have continued." Lansing seemed to take the decision in stride, commenting to TV: "I can't hate ABC. Hating a network would be like hating Dodger Stadium...I can't be mad at Quinn either. He says it was the network's decision, and I have no evidence to make me doubt him."

4.  In 1966, Robert Lansing was back on TV in the half-hour drama The Man Who Never Was. He played spy Peter Murphy, who assumes the identity of murdered millionaire Mark Wainwright. Murphy looks just like Wainwright and his impersonation convinces everyone but the dead man's wife Eva (Dana Wynter). Fortunately for Murphy, Eva is willing to go along with the masquerade--especially since her husband was trying to swindle her. Sadly, ABC cancelled The Man Who Never Was after 21 episodes. Three episodes were edited together and released overseas as the theatrical film as Danger Has Two Faces.

5. According to Alan Schneider's The American Theatre Reader, playwright Edward Albee wanted Robert Lansing for the role of Nick in the original Broadway production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? However, Lansing was never signed due to a disagreement over the billing. The role eventually went to George Grizzard; George Segal played Nick in the 1966 film adaptation.

With feline friend as Gary Seven.
6. During the second season of the original Star Trek, Robert Lansing guest starred as Gary Seven, a human sent by the race of another planet to save Earth from destruction. The episode, which was titled "Assignment: Earth," was a backdoor pilot for a TV series that would have starred Lansing as Gary Seven and Teri Garr as his assistant. The original script by Art Wallace and Gene Roddenberry had nothing to do with the Enterprise and its crew. However, when Roddenberry couldn't get a network interested in the proposed series, he and Wallace rewrote it for Star Trek.

7. Robert Lansing was married three times. His first wife was actress Emily McLaughlin, who played nurse Jessie Brewer on ABC's General Hospital for 28 years. Lansing's second wife was starlet Gari Hardy, whom was once described as "the new Ann-Margret" (though she was blonde). When they married in 1969, Hardy was 21 and Lansing was 41. They had a daughter, but divorced after two years. Lansing married Ann Pivar in 1981 and they remained together until his death in 1994. Incidentally, Gari Hardy married another older man, Jack Ryan, who designed the Barbie doll for Mattel and who was one of Zsa Zsa Gabor's husbands.


  1. My dad and I read all of McBain's books. What I have seen of the series impresses me.

  2. My brother and I were big 12 O'Clock High fans, and even had the card game (a variant on Old Maid). Robert's career is a case-in-point of how frustrating acting can be -- getting so close to lasting success time and again, only to come up empty. Still, he was a memorable presence.

  3. Lansing is the classic "that guy" for casual fans, especially if they were exposed to a steady diet of 1960s/1970s television.

  4. Mr. Lansing must've been married to wife #2 when he appeared on the game show HE SAID, SHE SAID. I saw a clip from that game recently, and I was surprised to see him actually smiling at the start, which is sommething he got to do as himself. He rarely appeared in sitcoms, making 1 or 2 episodes for Doris Day.

  5. Mr. Lansing's performance in the 12 O'Clock High tv tv series was equal to that
    Gregory Peck's performance in the original movie.

  6. QM got feedback that viewers thought Lansing too old and dour. So replacing him with Paul Burke may have been initiated by QM. In any case, it backfired. Show got canceled anyway.

  7. I'm not familiar with Robert Lansing, and I initially mistook him for Steve McQueen in the 12 O'Clock High and Gary Seven photos. He sounds like one of those versatile yet underrated actors.

  8. Yes... He often did get confused with Steve McQueen... I co-starred with him in a Sci-fi movie ISLAND CLAWS years ago... with Robert, Barry Nelson, Nita Talbot and Steve Hanks. We shot in Miami Florida, near Virginia Beach... (Could have been called the attack of the Mosquitoes...) It was a great shoot. One of my first features...

    1. I haven't watched Island Claws yet, but I'm a fan of his. Would be lovely to hear more about him, if you would like to share. There is a Facebook group about him, also several FB groups focusing on shows he was on, the Equalizer and KF:TLC ones are some I frequent. I would share what you tell me with them, if you'd like to join the groups I'm a member of, then we'd be glad to have you :)

      Enjoy the weekend!

    2. I bet it was the attack of the Mosquitoes, by the way. I have relatives that used to live in Florida, and I've heard how bad it can get.