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.

1972: 007 makes his U.S. television debut; Sam Rolfe revisits the spy genre

In the early 1970s, ABC would run long-form promos where it would spend a half-hour to highlight its programming for the upcoming television season. For 1972-73, that included a segment on the movies that would be shown. Top on the list was Goldfinger, the first 007 movie to appear on U.S. television. The first 35 seconds or so of the following clip show that. Character actor Harold Gould provides the voiceover:

Goldfinger was shown on The ABC Sunday Night Movie that season. In fact, it was the first Sunday Night Movies for the season, airing in September 1972. The network ended up editing out the gunbarrel sequence (while playing its music). Goldfinger took up 2 hours and 15 minutes, with commercials, airing from 9 vp.m. eastern time until 11:15 p.m.. In later showings, ABC cut out the entire pre-credits sequence and other scenes entirely to keep the movie to a 2-hour time slot.

There’s also something of interest for fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. At the end of the clip, there’s a promo for The Delphi Bureau, a short lived series created by Sam Rolfe, the developer of U.N.C.L.E.

This is an interesting clip beyond the spy entertainment. It also reflects its era. Networks considered movies an important part of their schedules. Other movies ABC promos include Lawrence of Arabia (which must have looked really crappy in pan-and-scan) and the original Dr. Doolittle. What’s more, ABC actually promotes its news coverage of the upcoming presidential election.