Robert Shayne; Broadway and Movie Actor


Robert Shayne, whose dramatic career included lead roles in some of Broadway’s most distinguished plays and character parts in some of Hollywood’s less spectacular films, has died.

The veteran actor and onetime film leading man of the 1930s was 92 when he died Sunday of lung cancer at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills, where he had been a patient for two months.

Born Robert Shaen Dawe in Yonkers, N.Y., Shayne worked as a journalist before choosing an acting career. His first stage appearances were with repertory companies in Alabama. By 1931, he had established the first of many Broadway credits in “The Rap.” For the next 60 years he alternated among stage, film and television. In New York, he starred in “Yellow Jack,” as the defense attorney in “The Night of January 16,” opposite Ina Claire in “Biography,” with Ethel Barrymore in “Whiteoaks” and in “Claudia” and “Without Love,” which starred Phyllis Thaxter and Katharine Hepburn, respectively.


The first of his nearly 100 films was “Keep ‘Em Rolling” in 1934; the last was Walt Disney’s “The Million Dollar Duck” in 1971. Between those were appearances in hits like “Hollywood Canteen,” “Mr. Skeffington,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Let’s Live a Little” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and such flops as “Law of the Badlands,” “Wife Wanted,” “The Strange Mrs. Crane” and “Mr. Walkie Talkie.”

Considered one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, Shayne also was one of the most frequently employed.

He also did several TV shows, among them “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Doris Day Show,” but probably will live more in the minds of older generations as Inspector William Henderson in the long-running and still syndicated “The Adventures of Superman,” starring the late George Reeves as the Man of Steel.

Shayne’s last credit was for the recurring role of Reggie, the blind news vendor, in the 1990 series “The Flash,” another TV show based on a comic strip.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, three daughters, 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. at the Little Theater of Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys.