After joining SEG Robert started doing extra work and in 1952 got his first job in the movie “Above and Beyond” with Robert Taylor. This was followed by extra work in a great many films including “Raintree County” with Liz Taylor, “The Harder They Fall” with Humphrey Bogart, “Calamity Jane” with Doris Day and “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” with Gregory Peck.
In 1953, during the Korean war, Robert, at age 19, was drafted into the United States Army where he served for two years, stationed in Korea for 15 months of that time. His unit was the 19th Infantry Regiment.
When Robert was discharged in 1955, he decided to give up his career as an extra because he did not see any future in it. However his dad, along with his long time pal Chuck Courtney, convinced Robert to attend Richard Boone's acting classes.
This was a pivotal move as the class impressed Robert so much he decided to stay in show business and take a shot at becoming an actor.
After a year of study, Richard Boone was impressed enough with Robert’s potential that he recommended him to Sanford Meisner, who accepted Robert into the New York Neighbourhood Playhouse School of Theatre. Meisner was a highly respected acting teacher who taught future stars like Gregory Peck, Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, Edmund O'Brien and Grace Kelly. Robert was in good company.
1956 brought Robert’s first speaking part in a movie. He played a union soldier and said to Gary Cooper, "Bet you a dollar you can't do that again". The film was "Friendly Persuasion", and not only was it Robert's first talking role in a movie, it was also the first time he worked with his future “Laramie” co-
Originally director William Wyler had wanted another actor to play the part Robert was given, however he was unimpressed with the other actor’s false sideburns. Robert’s sideburns were real and when Wyler saw Robert he called him over and asked if he could act.
Robert replied, "You bet".
Wyler then instructed, “Say this line – ‘I bet I can knock down more than you can’.”
Robert repeated the line and Wyler said without hesitation, “Give this kid the part”.
His dad convinced Robert to look for jobs as a dancer. Robert had dancing roles in “I Love Melvin” with Debbie Reynolds, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” with Marilyn Monroe and “Latin Lovers” with Lana Turner.
This was a turning point for Robert and the beginning of a great career. A
Robert in his first speaking role in Friendly Persuasion
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