HMSS’s favorite character actors: Robert Drivas

Robert Drivas, as Morgan Midas, struggles with Robert Conrad's James West

Robert Drivas in The Wild, Wild West

One in an occasional series

Robert Drivas had a talent for playing characters who seemed normal on the outside but were wound just a little tight on the inside.

In the first season of The Wild, Wild West, Drivas portrayed Morgan Midas, who had a rather ambitious scheme. He stole diamonds and melted them down to create a serum that allowed him to move at super speed.

The episode, The Night of the Burning Diamond, written by Ken Kolb, was pure fantasy, stretching the limits for a series that was often unconventional. But Drivas was an engrossing villain, one who often dominated the scenes where he appeared.

Drivas appeared in a number of episodes of Quinn Martin-produced shows. One of his best performances was in a two-part story in The FBI. Drivas played Paul Clamenti, a man in his mid-20s with lots of issues. Clamenti’s parents had been killed as part of La Cosa Nostra violence and he was adopted by his aunt and uncle.

Problem: his uncle, Edward (Telly Savalas), was one of the chiefs of the Cosa Nostra. He also fell in love with Chris Roland (Susan Strasberg), who was the daughter of Leo Roland (Walter Pidgeon), another mob boss.

On top of all that, Paul Clamenti decided to be a hit man on the side. His specialty was to shoot his victims twice in the heart, earning him the nickname Cupid. That sounds rather melodramatic, but Drivas pulled it off, more than holding his own in scenes with old pros.

Drivas also played a key role in the only three-part story in the original Hawaii Five-O series, V is for Vashon. Drivas, by this time in his 30s, played Chris Vashon, the early 20s scion of the Vashon crime family in Hawaii.

Once again, Drivas played opposite old pros (Harold Gould as his father, Luther Adler as his grandfather) and held his own. Chris Vashon died at the end of the first installment, an event that drives the remaining parts of the story.

Drivas played a variety of parts during his career, including Loudmouth Steve in Cool Hand Luke. He died of AIDS-related cancer in 1986 at the age of 47.

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2 Responses

  1. Drivas was excellent in a couple of “12 O’clock High” episodes – “The Hollow Man” and “The Albatross” – for Quinn Martin. Both of which he turned in an outstanding performance as a broken man dealing with the pressure of war.
    Nathan Fillion, currently the star of “Castle,” reminds me of Drivas in terms of facial acting expressions and they both have a kind of boyish look.

  2. Just saw The Albatross on MeTV. Very good.

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