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Robert Strauss (Nov 08. 1913 - Feb 20. 1975)

Height: 5' 11" (1,8 m)
(1) Audrey Bratty (1951 - 1960) (divorced)
      Children (3)
      Deborah Alma (Deja) (Aug 24. 1952) , and twins
      Deena Lori and David Jonathan (Dec 30. 1953)
(2) Virginia C. Deeb (Nov. 17 1961 - 20 February 1975)
      (his death)

The burly American character actor with a deep gravelly voice was born as Robert Strauss (Henry Robert Strauss?) a Jewish son of a theatrical costume designer Samuel Strauss. As a native of the Bronx he went to James Monroe High School.

Bob drifted from one menial job to another before turning to dramatics. Strauss also worked as a salesman and busboy before deciding to try acting. He started working in New York theatre groups and eventually made his Broadway debut. Although comedy became his specialty he started out playing classical roles, appearing in Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Macbeth on Broadway in 1930.

Starting in 1936, off and on for 13 years, Bob was a bartender. His first job was in a Jersey joint as a singing waiter. Most of the time he was tending bar he would entertain the customers, employing such props as wigs and masks. He said there's no better way to study acting. "The best way for an actor to improve in his craft is to study human behavior," he reasoned. "And you certainly see people as they really are from behind a bar."  

His mother died Nov.9 1940 aged 68.

Strauss enjoyed only middling success until the following decade, however, when film roles began to materialize for him. He made his Hollywood debut as a grocer in the 1942 Bill of Rights docudrama Native Land.

In the holiday season of 1947, after ten lean months trying to crash Hollywood, Robert Strauss needed money for coffee -end-cakes. Someone suggested to Strauss that a lot of harassed Hollywood parents would pay good money if only they could locate a character actor to play Santa to their kids. Strauss lost no time in placing an ad in the cinema bible, The Hollywood Reporter.  Soon after he was playing Santa to the assorted off-spring of Lloyd Nolan, Ann Sothern, Dorothy Lamour, Hedy Lamarr and Lou Nova, of the heavyweight division. That was the year Red Skelton gave a $10,000 school bus to a boy's home, and hired Strauss, in a marvelous Santa Claus costume, to drive the bus up to the home for the kids. Strauss fell victim to typecasting and returned to New York and got a part in Broadway's Detective Story (1949-1950).
He couldn't put the Santa Claus role away in mothballs. Instead, he interested Jack Barry, the radio brains of Juvenile Jury and Life begins at Eighty in the scheme. Together they enlarged the service Santa's Helpers which, by 1949, had fifty actor-Santa Clauses on the roster.

Strauss tended bar from New York to Hollywood and finally gave up pouring to become a full time actor in 1949.

In 1951 he married Canadian singer Audrey Bratty. She starred on radio and TV with the famed Leslie Bell Singers. They had three children. Deborah (Aug 24. 1952) who on an exchange student program in High school changed her name to Deja. Deja, Deena and David aka The three Ds was a reference to the short-lived hype of Three-D movies. Deja is married with two daughters and three sons and she and her husband live in Maryland. Deena (Dec 30. 1953) and her daughter and husband reside in Arizona and his son David (Dec 30. 1953) lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Sailor Beware" (1952) Jerry Lewis and Robert Strauss.(From L to R) Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Robert Strauss in "Jumping Jacks" (1952).
Above left: Sailor Beware (1952) Jerry Lewis and Robert Strauss.
Above right: (From L to R) Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Robert Strauss in Jumping Jacks (1952).
True stardom would not be his until Stalag 17. Robert Strauss is an animal or rather, the "Animal" of Billy Wilder's subversive 1953 World War II POW yarn, Stalag 17. Distinguished by his deep baritone croak, Strauss originated that role on Broadway several years before reprising it in Wilder's famous adaptation. The role gained Strauss widespread recognition, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His wife Audrey had a small part in Stalag 17 as Russian woman prisoner.
Sugar Lips Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck) and Animal (Robert Strauss) laughing their way through the war in "Stalag 17" (1953).Robert Strauss opposite Kirk Douglas in 1953's "Act of Love".
Above left: Sugar Lips Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck) and Animal (Robert Strauss) laughing their way through the war in Stalag 17 (1953).
Above right: Robert Strauss opposite Kirk Douglas in 1953's Act of Love.

He went on to become one of the most recognizable faces of the '50s, popping up in TV and film roles alike. His memorable comic characters included a maniac called "Jack the Slasher" in the 1953 Bob Hope comedy film Here Come the Girls .

Due to an illness Robert collapsed on the set of Atomic Kid (1954). Three-quarters of the scenes had already been shot at Republic, but Mickey Rooney was very fond of Strauss and insisted that the picture wait until he's better. With the prospect of Strauss being bedded for a month, Mickey felt so sure that it wasn't a heart condition that he's insisted on waiting. He telephoned Herbert Yates in New York who consented to the postponement.

Robert Strauss with Mickey Roony in "Atomic Kid" (1954).Robert appeared again under the direction of Wilder in his 1955 Marilyn Monroe comedy, "The Seven Year Itch", this time as Mr. Kruhulik, a gawking janitor.
Above left: Robert Strauss with Mickey Roony in Atomic Kid (1954)
Above right:  Robert appeared in The Seven Year Itch.

Robert appeared again under the direction of Wilder in his 1955 Marilyn Monroe comedy, The Seven Year Itch, this time as Mr. Kruhulik, a gawking janitor. The character actor had the opportunity to work with other legendary performers as well, and played the shady Schwiefka opposite Frank Sinatra in The Man with the Golden Arm the same year. Strauss appeared in the 1956 war film Attack! with Jack Palance, Eddie Albert and Lee Marvin.

Strauss still had a hankering for his bar days and, reportedly in 1956, contemplated opening a restaurant near his home at Nyack,  N.Y.

Following his appearance in Broadway's Portofino, a short-lived 1958 disaster, Strauss went on to character roles in The Bridges at Toko-Ri and Wake Me When It's Over, plus a number of low-budget films for producers like Albert Zugsmith. He also played Daisy Mae's cretinous suitor Romeo Scragg in the 1959 musical comedy Li'l Abner, based on the Broadway show.

In 1960 Robert and Audrey divorced. Robert married Virginia Deeb the following year in Santa Barbara on Nov 17. 1961.

Robert Strauss in a 50s-60s commercial for Salada Iced Tea.Strauss had a recurring role on "Bewitched" (1966) as conniving private investigator Charlie Leach, who was one of the few mortals who knew Samantha was a witch.
Above left: Robert Strauss in a 50s-60s commercial for "Salada Iced Tea".
Above right: Strauss had a recurring role on Bewitched (1966) as conniving private investigator Charlie Leach.
Strauss became familiar to television viewers through his appearances in Bonanza (1962), The Beverly Hillbillies (1967), The Monkees (1967), and a recurring role on Bewitched (1966) as conniving private investigator Charlie Leach, who was one of the few mortals who knew Samantha was a witch. He also appeared on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1965), The Phil Silvers Show (1956), and Green Acres (1966). He played a goldfish-poking bad guy who was a murder victim in the 1959 Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Dangerous Dowager." He played Pete Kamboly in a 1965 episode, "The Case of the Thermal Thief."

His final film consisted of a solo "tour de force" performance in the experimental feature The Noah, in this one-man-show (filmed 1968, not seen until 1975), Strauss played the only survivor on earth after a nuclear holocaust.
"Dagmar's Hot Pants" (1971) had Strauss playing opposite Inger Sundh."Dagmar's Hot Pants" (1971) had Strauss playing opposite Inger Sundh.
Above Dagmar's Hot Pants (1971) had Strauss playing opposite Inger Sundh.

Strauss was incapacitated during the final years of his life from the effects of a paralyzing stroke. A stroke in December 1974 left him in a coma. He died from an additional stroke on February 20, 1975. Cremated his ashes given to family or friend.


All dates for movies are for the official US release.
All dates for TV programs are original first airdates.
All dates for (radio) plays are for the time span the actor was involved.

Facts in red still need confirmation.

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Other references
(1) Wikipedia  9/2017 wrong references to radio performances
(3) IBDB
(4) The Scott Rollins Film and TV Trivia Blog Robert Strauss 9/2017 wrong reference to radio perfomances

Additional video & audio sources
(1) The Atomic Kid 1954 Movie Clip YouTube

(2) The Noah 1975 full movie YouTube
(3) Jumping Jacks 1952 Movie Clip YouTube

Robert W. Strauss (1879-1940)  -- CLICK FOR MORE -- ...This actor profile is a part of Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above however, DID NOT play in any of the portrayals of the work of the author.
Previously it was, wrongly, assumed he played the role of Doc Prouty in the first Ellery Queen radio series. The profile of the actor Robert W. Strauss that did can be found here  (click on his picture for more....)

Many of the profiles on this site have been compiled after very careful research of various sources. Please quote and cite ethically!

Page first published on Sep 17. 2017 
Last updated Jul 25, 2020 
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