June 01, 2006

Actor Robert Sterling starred in TV’s ‘Topper’

Robert Sterling — the handsome star of 1940s movies who appeared with his wife, Anne Jeffreys, in the TV series Topper — died Tuesday at his Brentwood, Calif., home. He was 88.

Sterling died of natural causes after a decade-long battle with shingles, said his son, Jeffrey.

Although he appeared in dozens of movies, Sterling was best known for the 1953-56 TV series Topper, based on the Thorne Smith novel and the 1937 film starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett.

Sterling was born William Hart in 1917 in New Castle, Pa., the son of Chicago Cubs catcher William S. Hart. He attended college in Pennsylvania and worked as a clothing salesman before breaking into movies.

He proved a versatile player and appeared in five films in 1941, including the romantic comedy Two-Faced Woman with Greta Garbo and The Penalty with Lionel Barrymore.

After Topper, Sterling retired from acting to become a businessman.

Sterling was married to actress Ann Sothern from 1943 to 1949 and they had a daughter. He married Jeffreys in 1951 and they had three sons.

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