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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Actor Robert Stack dies
Robert Stack
Stack's career was characterised by his "good guy" persona
Actor Robert Stack, who played the Prohibition detective Eliot Ness in the 1960s TV series The Untouchables, died on Wednesday in his Los Angeles home aged 84.

The actor, who became internationally famous for his role as Ness, died of heart failure, his wife Rosemarie said.

She said she found him slumped over in the couple's home on Wednesday afternoon.

Stack had recently undergone treatment for prostate cancer.

"He was feeling so good," she said on Thursday. "He had a bout with a tumour but that was gone. It wasn't that, it was his heart. He was too weak. He wouldn't have lived through a bypass."

Stack starred in more than 40 movies in an career that started in 1939.

His greatest role, however, came in 1959, when he was cast as the hard-bitten Chicago detective Ness in The Untouchables, which ran for four years in the US.

'Not Al Capone'

It won him an Emmy for best actor, and also created Stack's "good guy" persona that was to become a hallmark of his acting career.

"I think there's a definite carry-over from Eliot Ness," Stack said in 1998 . "Somebody once said, 'You really think you're Eliot Ness.' No, I don't think I'm Ness, but I sure as hell know I'm not Al Capone.'"

Stack followed the hit show as the host of the equally popular Unsolved Mysteries.

Stack was born into a showbusiness family in Los Angeles in 1919. His mother, uncle and grandparents were opera singers, and his great-grandfather opened the first circus in the city.

Robert Stack
Stack even featured in the Beavis & Butthead movie

His film career started in 1939 in the film First Love.

He received acting advice from Hollywood icon Clark Gable, who told him: "If you ever become a thing called a celebrity - a word I hate - if you ever do, and you use that power to push people around, I'm gonna kick you."

He received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his part in 1956's Written on the Wind.

Comedy roles

In the 1960s film roles included The Caretakers (1963) and Is Paris Burning? (1966).

Stack's latter career was marked by comedy roles that sometimes lampooned his straight-up persona. He starred in Airplane! (1979) and Caddyshack II (1988).

He even provided the voice to a law agent in Beavis & Butthead Do America (1996).

Stack married his wife Rosemarie in 1956 and had two children, Charles and Elizabeth. They were both at the family home when he died.

Obituary: Robert Stack
15 May 03  |  Entertainment

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