Robert J. Wilke

Robert Joseph Wilke (May 18, 1914 – March 28, 1989) was an American film and television actor noted primarily for his roles as villains, mostly in Westerns.

Robert J. Wilke
Robert J. Wilke in Death Valley Days.jpg
Wilke in Death Valley Days (1966)
Robert Joseph Wilke

(1914-05-18)May 18, 1914
DiedMarch 28, 1989(1989-03-28) (aged 74)
Years active1936–1981
Known forWesterns
Spouse(s)Patricia Wilke

Early yearsEdit

Wilke was a native of Cincinnati. Before going into acting, he had a variety of jobs, including working in a high-dive act at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933–1934.[1]


Wilke started as a stuntman in the 1930s and his first appearance on screen was in San Francisco (1936).[1] He soon began to acquire regular character parts, mainly as a heavy, and made his mark when, along with Lee Van Cleef and Sheb Wooley, he played one of the "three men waiting at the station" in High Noon (1952).

Television westernsEdit

Wilke appeared in many, if not most, television westerns, including seven episodes each of NBC's Laramie and CBS's Gunsmoke.

He appeared eight times from 1951 to 1953 on the syndicated western series The Range Rider. He was a guest star five times each on Cheyenne and Bonanza, four times on Wagon Train and Death Valley Days, and three times on Rawhide, The Cisco Kid, Tombstone Territory, and Daniel Boone. He appeared twice on The Virginian, Cimarron Strip, and The Guns of Will Sonnett, and once on The Tall Man, Sky King, Lancer, The Wild Wild West, and The Monroes.

Wilke appeared as a dishonest fight promoter in the 1958 episode "The Fighter" of NBC's western series, Bat Masterson, fighting with Gene Barry, who played Masterson.

Robert J. Wilke in a 1960 episode of Bonanza

In 1960 Wilke was cast as Red Dog Hanlon in the episode "End of a Dream" of the NBC western series Riverboat.[citation needed]

In 1961 Wilke appeared as Gil Fletcher, a corrupt marshal in Billings, Montana, in the episode "The Fatal Step" of NBC's Laramie.[citation needed]

In the 1965-66 television season Wilke played Marshal Sam Corbett, in the 34-episode ABC western series The Legend of Jesse James,[2] who (in vain) tried to capture the outlaws Jesse James and his brother Frank James.[citation needed] In 1960 Wilke played Jesse James' associate Cole Younger in the short-lived NBC western series Overland Trail with William Bendix and Doug McClure.

Wilke played a hired gun in The Far Country (1954) and continued to work steadily in films and television over the next 20 years. More western credits followed in Man of the West (1958) and numerous lesser-known films.

Wilke in 1963

In 1960 Wilke appeared in The Magnificent Seven as the railroad bully, Wallace, who was quickly killed off by James Coburn. He also appeared in Days of Heaven (1978) as the farm foreman.

In 1966 Wilke was cast as the courageous Sheriff McBain in the episode "Brute Angel" of the syndicated western series Death Valley Days.[citation needed]

Wilke guest-starred on many other television westerns, including Maverick, Tales of Wells Fargo, Have Gun – Will Travel, Bronco, The Westerner, Lawman, Wanted Dead or Alive, Zorro, The Rifleman, and Rango.

Other rolesEdit

Outside of westerns, Wilke appeared in From Here to Eternity (1953) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). In the former film, Wilke's character tells Maggio he has guard duty, which begins a series of events leading to the plot's climax. In the later film, he was cast as the first mate of the Nautilus. It is Wilke who, in the film, warns Captain Nemo that a giant squid is approaching the ship, and who utters the line, "We understand, sir, and we're with you", when Nemo announces his final intentions.

His drama/adventure roles included U.S. Marshal, Peter Gunn, Tarzan, Bourbon Street Beat, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Untouchables. In 1953 Wilke, playing a henchman for an East European counterfeiter, shoved John Hamilton and George Reeves into side-by-side steam cabinets, locked them in, turned up the thermostat to charbroil and left them to bake in "Perry White's Scoop", an episode of the Adventures of Superman.

Wilke played Deputy Sheriff Connors in the 1963 episode, "The Case of the Drowsy Mosquito" on CBS' Perry Mason. He portrayed golf professional Danny Donnigan in a 1962 episode, "Robbie the Caddie", on the ABC sitcom, My Three Sons. In 1964 Wilke played Tom Carter, the golf instructor of Lucy Carmichael (Lucille Ball), in The Lucy Show episode "Lucy Takes Up Golf".

Wilke's final film role was somewhat against type as Gen. Barnicke[citation needed] in the 1981 comedy Stripes.[1]


Wilke was an excellent golfer. Author Dan Jenkins, in his book The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate, describes a golf match at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles:

Mr. Wilke joined Mr. Jenkins, Vic Damone, James Garner, Jack Ging, Glen Campbell, Donald O'Connor, and Lindsay Crosby in the first and only Sports Illustrated Open Invitation at Riviera. The pro at Riviera at the time, Mac Hunter, is quoted as saying, "Bob Wilke used to be head and shoulders better than any of the actors and personalities. And he's still very good. A solid four handicap, but his putting is deteriorating. Wilke must have won more celebrity tournaments than you can count.[3]

Ging edged out Bob Wilke for the win that day.[3] James Garner also said that Wilke was the best golfer among the showbiz crowd at the Riviera in his book The Garner Files.[4]

In 1966, Wilke was rated the best amateur golfer in Hollywood. In 1960, 1963, and 1964, he won the World Entertainment Championship golf title.[5]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Robert Wilke; Was Villain in Scores of Films". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. April 1, 1989. p. 35. Retrieved October 14, 2018 – via  
  2. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 593. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  3. ^ a b Jenkins, Dan (1970). "5: "Lights...Camera...Double Bogey"". The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate. Fireside/Simon & Schuster. p. ????. ISBN 9780671667504.
  4. ^ Garner, James; Jon Winokur (2011). The Garner Files: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. p. 159. ISBN 978-1-4516-4260-5. OCLC 709673421.
  5. ^ "'Meanest Man' Coming to Pensacola". The Pensacola News. Florida, Pensacola. February 22, 1966. p. 12. Retrieved October 14, 2018 – via  

External linksEdit