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Robert Strauss as Technical Sergeant Sam Weiscoff in "Wake Me When Its Over"
November 8, 1913|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 20, 1975
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||stroke|
|Virginia Deeb (1951-60; divorced)
Audrey Bratty (1961-75; his death)
Strauss began his career as a classical actor, appearing in The Tempest and Macbeth on Broadway in 1930. Comedy became his speciality, and he was known best as Stalag 17's Stanislas "Animal" Kuzawa, a role he created in the original 1951 Broadway production and reprised in the 1953 film adaptation, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
His memorable comic characters included a maniac called "Jack the Slasher" in the 1953 Bob Hope comedy film Here Come the Girls and Daisy Mae's cretinous suitor Romeo Scragg in the 1959 musical comedy Li'l Abner, based on the Broadway show. He also was featured in the 1955 Marilyn Monroe comedy film The Seven Year Itch.
In more serious parts, Strauss appeared in the 1956 war film Attack! with Jack Palance, Eddie Albert and Lee Marvin. He also had an important supporting role in the 1955 drama The Man with the Golden Arm.
Additional Broadway credits include Detective Story, Twentieth century, and Portofino. Following his appearance in the latter, 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.
Strauss became familiar to television viewers through his appearances in The Beverly Hillbillies, Bonanza, The Monkees, and a recurring role on Bewitched 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, The Phil Silvers Show, Green Acres and The Dick van Dyke Show. 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.
Strauss was a familiar voice in not a few radio dramas from the 1930s to the 1950s. His recurring roles included "Pa Wiggs" in the soap opera Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1936-1938) and "Lively," a miner, in the 15-minute serial Our Gal Sunday that was broadcast on CBS from 1937 to 1959.
Strauss was Jewish. He was first married to Audrey Bratty from 1951 to 1960. They had three children, Deena, Deja and David. After their divorce in 1960, he married Virginia Deeb the following year and remained with her until his death.
Strauss was incapacitated during the final years of his life from the effects of a paralyzing stroke. He died from an additional stroke on February 20, 1975.