Jay Robinson is an American actor best-known for his
role as Caligula in The Robe (1953). TV audiences
may remember him as Ambassador Petri in the 1968 "Elaan
of Troyius" episode of the original Star Trek series,
or as Monty Dolan on the NBC daytime soap Days of Our Lives
(1988-89). Younger television viewers might recall him
as mad scientist Dr. Shrinker on The Krofft Supershow
Biographical fast facts
Date and place of birth: April 14, 1930, New York City, New York, U.S.A.*
Child: Jay Paul Robinson (b. February 28, 1961, at 6:59 p.m.) (son)
Father: Stanley Robinson (an executive at Van Heusen)
Mother: Barbara (Breslaw) Robinson (a Broadway dancer known as
"Bobbie Breslaw" and later, a real estate broker)
Error corrections or clarifications
* Source: His autobiography The Comeback (1979) -
"I was born on April 14, 1930."
Note: A few sources erroneously report he made his
debut in Life with Father. This error originated
as a result of a fib Jay told to help land his first
Some sources, early reviews, and playbills, erroneously
report he was educated and had extensive stage credits
on the British stage. This error also originated as a
result of a lie Jay told in order to get a foothold on
Broadway. At that early stage of his career, he recalled,
"I had never once been outside the continental United
Early studio biographies erroneously reported he'd been
educated by a private tutor. Again, this was due to
fabricated information Jay supplied the studio publicists.
In his autobiography he commented, "One spurious item
I gave her (the publicist) was that I had been educated
by a private tutor as a child."
Biography - Selected credits
Jay Robinson spent the first few years of his life
in New York City. His mother was a former Broadway
dancer, and his father was one of the founders of
the popular clothing maker Van Heusen. At the age
of seven, his parents divorced, and he and his mother
moved to Miami Beach, Florida, to live with his
maternal grandmother. After the move, young Jay
discovered a scrapbook containing memorabilia from
his mother's dancing days on Broadway. It was then
that he resolved to become an actor.
He began performing at the age of 11 for the USO. This
consisted of Jay and a couple of neighbor girls singing
and dancing to the hit song Chattanooga Choo Choo.
His professional stage debut was as Henry Aldrich in
What a Life at the Hawthorne Inn Playhouse, in
East Gloucester, Massachusetts on July 8th, 1946.
He worked opposite Boris Karloff in The Shop at Sly
Corner, Fay Bainter in Gayden, Katharine Hepburn
in As You Like It, and received incredibly glowing
reviews for his work in each. Perhaps a bit heady
from all the adulation, he set about to produce and
star in his own Broadway show. His father raised
$50,000 to produce The Green Bay Tree with Jay
both starring and producing it. Quickly realizing
he'd be better off just starring in the Broadway
show, Jay gave control of casting, directing and
producing to Shepard Traube. Jay's ego got the best
of him and the young actor was promptly fired.
Just 21 years old, he then set about to produce and
star in a Broadway play based on his own life. His
father again raised $50,000 to mount Buy Me Blue
Ribbons. The show opened October 17th, 1951, at
the Empire Theatre, in New York City. The reviews
were terrible, and it closed after just 13 performances.
Hollywood beckoned, and Jay moved to the West Coast.
His first role was that of mad emperor Caligula in
the film The Robe (1953). The reviews for
the young actor were fantastic. Adulation came at
Jay from all directions. It was reported that he
was receiving more than 10,000 fan letters a week
at the peak of his Caligula fame. By his own admission,
the unending praise went to his head. He purchased a
palatial mansion in Bel Air, a 14-carat gold-plated
Cadillac convertible, spent money like a madman, and
threw lavish parties. In the mid-1950s, he also
became a regular user of marijuana, before escalating
to uppers and downers. By the late-'50s he would spend
months in a haze of pills, heroin, and hallucinogens.
He was completely hooked on drugs by the time of his
arrest on several counts of narcotics possession
November 13th, 1958. He was ultimately sentenced to
a year in county jail. While freed on bond pending
appeal, he began selling everything he owned in order
to pay for drugs. Only after he lost his Bel Air mansion
did he begin a new phase in his life, beginning with
a drug withdrawal program.
He met and quickly fell in love with Pauline Flowers.
She was a nurse he encountered as he was beginning
to straighten his life out. They married February 8th,
1960, in Tijuana, Mexico. Following his marriage, Jay
found that acting jobs had completely dried up, so
he ended up working various jobs such as an animal
caretaker at a small zoo, and tour guide at a monkey
sanctuary in Florida. The latter position was most
apropos in that Jay had actually owned and cared
for several pet monkeys of his own. He returned to
the stage only after the young couple and their
new son moved to Florida, then on to New York. Though
he found occasional stage work, most were scared off
by his previous heavy drug use and refused to hire
him. Their early years together were extremely lean,
and even food was sometimes scarce. When Pauline was
hospitalized with tuberculosis, things only got worse.
She did eventually recover, but the couple saw no
future for themselves in New York, so moved back to
the West Coast. Finances were not much better, but he
did find work as an apartment/boarding house manager,
fry cook, and a psychiatric hospital worker. Just
as his life was settling down, he was arrested
(May 13th, 1966) on an old warrant.
Shortly after his marriage, Jay had seen a news
item announcing that his drug conviction had been
reversed, so believed that was the end of the case.
In reality, once his conviction had been reversed,
a hearing was set to fix a date for a new trial.
When he failed to show at that hearing back in
1960, a warrant was issued for his arrest. For
six years there had been a warrant out on him, but
since he had moved several times, the authorities
had lost touch with him. After a second trial, he
was convicted again. It was then that he learned
his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. Jay
Robinson became prisoner number B5985 in the
California state prison system. He undertook
rigorous training behind bars and became a prison
firefighter, and also discovered that Pauline's
battle with cancer was successful. On March 9th,
1968, he was released on parole, having served
fifteen months behind bars.
His debt to society now paid, Jay set about
rebuilding his acting career. Shortly after
his release from prison, he found work
guest-starring on the popular CBS detective
drama Mannix. Star Trek, The Wild,
Wild West, and Bewitched followed.
Though he usually portrayed despicable villains,
Jay was finally rebuilding his acting career with
work in various television and motion picture
projects. After he had signed on to appear in the
film Born Again, Jay became a born-again
Christian. He continued to find work on television
and in movies for decades, and was also an inspirational
speaker. His autobiography The Comeback was published
Selected film credits: The Robe (1953) Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) The Virgin Queen (1955) The Wild Party (1956) My Man Godfrey (1957) Bunny O'Hare (1971) Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972) Nightmare Honeymoon (1973) This Is a Hijack (1973) Three the Hard Way (1974) I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now? (1975) Train Ride to Hollywood (1975) Shampoo (1975) Born Again (1978) The Man with Bogart's Face (1980) Partners (1982) The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986) Transylvania Twist (1990) Ghost Ship (1992) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Skeeter (1993)
Selected TV-movies/Miniseries/Pilots/Miscellaneous TV: She Lives! (1973) Mr. and Mrs. Ryan (1985) C.C.P.D. (1992)
Selected stage credits: What a Life (His stage debut, July 8th, 1946) Candida The Shop at Sly Corner (His Broadway debut, January 18th, 1949) Gayden As You Like It Buy Me Blue Ribbons Much Ado About Nothing Caligula Hamlet The Picture of Dorian Gray Night Must Fall Julius Caesar Twelfth Night
Television series: The Krofft Supershow (Dr. Shrinker) (1976-1977) Days of Our Lives (1988-89) Beyond Bizarre (1997)
Selected TV guest appearances: Mannix Star Trek The Wild, Wild West Judd for the Defense My Friend Tony Bewitched The Virginian Hawaii Five-O Room 222 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Search The Waltons (recurring role) Planet of the Apes Banacek Kolchak: The Night Stalker Barney Miller Bronk Harry-O Doc Phyllis The Kallikaks A.E.S. Hudson Street Flatbush Cliff Hangers Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Voyagers! Scarecrow and Mrs. King Tales of the Gold Monkey CHiPS Amanda's George Burns Comedy Week New Love, American Style Night Court Murder, She Wrote Cheers F.B.I.: The Untold Stories The Nanny
The most in-depth of more than two dozen
sources consulted in preparing this profile,
was Jay Robinson's 1979 autobiography, The Comeback.
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