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Robert Stack : Straight Shooting (An Autobiography)

Ask me what I know of Robert Stack and I’d mention The Untouchables though I’ve never seen the show other than the pilot with Neville Brand. I just connect him to Elliott Ness. The rather stern voice is another Stack trademark and of course he’s in Airplane.

stack bio

Truthfully I have never really given him a second thought as an actor because I more or less find him a one note performer.

Now that I’ve read his story in his own words I’ll have to give him another look as I like how he has presented himself in print.

Did you know when he was a baby he moved with his Mother to Europe and upon his return as a young boy he couldn’t speak English? This from a man who has such a strong and well known delivery.

As a teenager he was a champion skeet shooter living in Hollywood with his reunited parents. What do you think Hollywood stars of the day liked to do? Go skeet shooting. Imagine being a young kid and sharing the range and outshooting Gable, Tracy and Taylor.

His Mother was well connected and film stars were welcome in their home as he grew up. He speaks fondly of Carole Lomabrd and points out in relation to current stars at the time of print that “trying to copy Carole Lombard is like trying to catch a sunbeam.”

stack and lombard

Along came Deanna Durbin, the first on screen kiss and Stack was on his way in tinsel town. He was the go to young man for light romantic froth though he points out his experience working with Deanna was one where she was the ‘star’ and he was more or less a prop at the time.

stack and durbin

Before he knows it he’s challenging Gable to a drinking contest only to awaken the next morning with Clark serving martinis for breakfast and offering sound advice on drinking.

For the preservation of silent films there is a great story of him moving into a house once owned by silent star Colleen Moore. In the home he found a concealed room where reels upon reels of her silent films and home movies were located. He contacted her and had them returned. Let’s hope they are all still in existence today.

In between film roles he hung out with Errol Flynn and saw first hand the lady killer in action. When WW2 struck he enlisted and wound up training gunners in the airforce. Not surprising considering his expertise at skeet shooting.

bullfighter

He recalls the first 3D film in release that he starred in, Bwana Devil and working for John Wayne’s company on The Bullfighter and the Lady. He has plenty of kind words aimed at Duke and lists him as one of his heroes. Working on The High and the Mighty proved to be one his career highlights.

He recounts the Oscar race for his role in Written On the Wind finally losing to Anthony Quinn and working in Japan for Sam Fuller on the excellent House of Bamboo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By the time television comes around he moves into The Untouchables and secures his everlasting fame. At one point he lists some of the injuries that have plagued him over the years due to on set accidents. The migraines? He jokingly blames George Kennedy for those. Apparently George didn’t quite pull a punch while filming an episode of the hit show. As the sixties come to a close he documents his tour of the front lines in Vietnam and the lasting effect the soldiers had upon him in the years to follow.

The book ends as he lands a role in the Spielberg comedy 1941. Too bad he didn’t write this in 1990 as opposed to 1980 as he could regale us with the effect the comedy Airplane had on his career and the next generation of film goers.

Airplane_Stack

All in all a good read where Stack shares plenty of fun Hollywood history without throwing dirt on the deceased. Stack would live until 2003 at which point he passed away at the age of 84.

I happened to come across an old pocket novel version of this release in case your looking to give it a go.

4 Comments »

  1. Always nice when someone can write about their past and keep it fun, without the mud-slinging. And I’m sure Stack could’ve written an entire book about his time spent working on ‘Airplane’!

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