LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robert Stack, whose granite-eyed stare and menacing baritone spelled trouble for television's fictional criminals in "The Untouchables" and real ones in "Unsolved Mysteries," died at his home. He was 84.
Stack's wife Rosemarie found him slumped over at about 5 p.m. Wednesday. He died of a heart ailment, she said. The actor had undergone radiation treatment for prostate cancer in October.
Although he had a long film career beginning in 1939 with "First Love," Stack's greatest fame came with the 1959-63 TV drama "The Untouchables," in which he played Chicago crimebuster Eliot Ness and won a best actor Emmy.
That role, coupled with his job as host of the reality series "Unsolved Mysteries," created an enduring good-guy image.
"I think there's a definite carry-over from Eliot Ness," Stack said in a 1998 interview with The Associated Press. "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.' "
If Stack tended to appear stiffly humorless on screen, in conversation he was relaxed and jovial, with deep Hollywood roots that gave him a wealth of star-studded anecdotes.
Stack was born into a performing arts family in Los Angeles. His great-great-grandfather opened one of the city's first theaters, and his grandparents, uncle and mother were opera singers.
He gave popular young actress Deanna Durbin her much-publicized first screen kiss in "First Love," and played a series of youthful romantic leads before leaving Hollywood to serve with the Navy as an aerial gunnery instructor in World War II.
His postwar career climbed in the 1950s with meatier roles and better projects, including "The High and the Mighty" starring John Wayne in 1954.
In 1957, Stack was nominated for a best supporting Oscar for "Written on the Wind," a domestic melodrama starring Lauren Bacall and Rock Hudson.
Stack made more than 40 films, including "The Iron Glove" (1954); "Good Morning Miss Dove" (1955) and "Is Paris Burning?" (1966). In later years he shifted to comedy, mocking his stalwart image in 1980's "Airplane!" and appearing in "1941" (1979), "Caddyshack II" (1988) and "Baseketball" (1998).
His role as Ness in "The Untouchables" brought him a best actor Emmy in 1960. The series, awash in Prohibition Era shoot-'em-ups between gangsters and federal agents, drew harsh criticism about its violence along with good ratings for ABC.
Stack found more series success with "The Name of the Game" (1968-71), "Most Wanted" (1976-77) and "Strike Force" (1981-82).
Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.