On This Day … 21 May [2022]

People (Deaths)

  • 1998 – Robert Gist, American actor and director (b. 1917).

Robert Gist

Robert Marion Gist (01 October 1917 to 21 May 1998) was an American actor and film director.

Gist was reared around the stockyards of Chicago, Illinois, during the Great Depression. Reform school-bound after injuring another boy in a fistfight, Gist instead ended up at Chicago’s Hull House, a settlement house originally established by social worker Jane Addams. There he first became interested in acting.

Work in Chicago radio was followed by stage acting roles in Chicago and on Broadway (in the long-running Harvey with Josephine Hull). While acting in Harvey, he made his motion picture debut in 20th Century-Fox’s Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Gist was also seen on Broadway in director Charles Laughton’s The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (1954) with Henry Fonda and John Hodiak.

While shooting Operation Petticoat (1959), Gist told director Blake Edwards that he was interested in directing. Edwards later hired Gist to helm episodes of the TV series Peter Gunn. Gist also directed episodes of TV shows Naked City, The Twilight Zone, Route 66 and many others.

Gist directed the world premiere of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Conversation at Midnight, produced by Worley Thorne and Susan Davis, in November 1961, on stage, at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles. Playing only on the three “off-nights” the theatre was available, Monday through Wednesday, the production was received enthusiastically by critics and audiences, and the small 160-seat theatre was filled to capacity each night for six weeks. With that success, the production moved to the larger Civic Playhouse, where it ran for more than four more months. In the cast were James Coburn, Jack Albertson, Eduard Franz, Hal England, Sandy Kenyon, Frank DeKova and Bill Berger. Three years later, Gist directed another production of the piece on Broadway, at the Billy Rose Theatre, again produced by Thorne, in association with Davis, with some of the first cast. However, notably absent in key roles were James Coburn and Jack Albertson. The “play,” a dramatic dialogue of ideas, delivered in various poetic forms, did not do well on Broadway and closed within the week.

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