In 1977, I was ten years old and the new motorcycle cop series CHiPs, an instant hit, got my attention. True, I was enamored of darkly handsome Erik Estrada (as millions of others were), but in a surprising turn of events, I also found myself intrigued by Estrada's boss on the show, played by Robert Pine.
Robert Pine was born with the rather unwieldy family name of Granville Whitelaw Pine on July, 10th, 1941 in New York, New York. He was raised in Scarsdale, NY with a father who was a patent attorney. The family spent summers in Nantucket, Massachusetts where, in time, Pine worked on a summer musical and drew the attention of playwright Robert Anderson, who suggested he try a career in acting. Pine, however, had plans to attend med school after college and become a doctor.
After having suffered through the name Granville (though pals called him “Buzz'), he was happy to redub himself Robert Pine and embark on a career as a working actor. He began to study with esteemed teacher Jeff Corey while being assigned parts by the studio. First up was a role in an episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre in 1964, alongside James Whitmore and Tommy Sands. (As a hyper, teen troublemaker, he indulges in what can politely be described as overacting, though some might call it mugging!)
Pine worked several times on The Virginian from 1965 on, usually as troubled young men. He proceeded to parts on such series as Wagon Train, Broadside, Convoy and Run for Your Life. He got to work opposite Robert Taylor on Death Valley Days as seen here, playing a shanghaied sailor. The Audie Murphy western Gunpoint (1966) was his big screen debut, in which he played a member of an outlaw gang.
That same year, he was one of the young male leads in a teen rock 'n roll flick called Out of Sight. That's him in the hilarious pale gold jumpsuit!
He rounded out a trio of movies that year with Munster, Go Home!, in which he affected an English accent.
1967 brought more work his way including the WWII drama The Young Warriors, starring James Drury. (He's shown below as a bespectacled soldier.) He also worked on the series Lost in Space, Death Valley Days and even The Lucy Show, one in which Lucille Ball's character heads back to high school in order to get her diploma.(Lucy strongly considered using him as one of the many kids in 1968's Yours, Mine and Ours, but unfortunately he was already too mature.)
Journey to Shiloh (1968) was a Civil War drama that featured many young actors who would later gain fame including James Caan, Michael Sarrazin, Don Stroud, Jan-Michael Vincent and Harrison Ford (who I always felt a young Pine resembled more than a little bit.) (Someone needed to inform him that covering half his face with a hat – far left – was no way to gain fame!) Then there was The Counterfeit Killer (1968) with Jack Lord and Shirley Knight.
More appearances on hit TV westerns were in store including Gunsmoke, The Wild Wild West, Bonanza (as fellow guest Will Geer's brooding son) and The High Chapparal. Balancing these out were guest spots on Mannix, the little-known spy show called The Silent Force, Dan August, Medical Center, Cannon and Mod Squad. Robert Pine AND Larry Casey in the same episode of Bonanza? I'll have a scoop of each, please!
He costarred in the 1973 TV movie Incident on a Dark Street alongside James Olson and David Canary. It was a failed series pilot about fledgling Federal prosecutors and guest-starred William Shatner. That same year, he played one of several cavalrymen in the James Garner-Vera Miles family western One Little Indian. (Morgan Woodward, who had worked with Pine in Gunpoint and on Gunsmoke, was also on board. He would later pop up in a 1980 episode of CHiPs.)
A variety of work was still coming his way, though little of it important. He worked on shows as diverse as Love, American Style and The F.B.I. There was a role in the Patrick Wayne back-to-nature flick The Bears and I and a bit role in Day of the Locust. Having worked quite a bit for TV producer Quinn Martin, he signed on for the awkwardly-titled Bert D'Angelo/Superstar series in 1976, but the whole experience was unpleasant for him and the show, which starred Paul Sorvino, was cancelled after a dozen installments.
1977 would prove to be a key year in Pine's career. Not only was he guest-starring on several hot shows like Barnaby Jones, Charlie's Angels and even The Bob Newhart Show, but he took a role in a very low-budget thriller that has endured thanks to the born-again stardom of its leading lady, Joan Collins.
Yes, Pine was in Empire of the Ants, a hilariously bad movie about giant ants taking over. His jerky, cowardly character got quite a come-uppance when he was bitten in the crotch by one of the enlarged creatures!
Besides all this, however, 1977 was also the year that he signed on to costar on CHiPs. The series featured California Highway Patrol motorcycle cops Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, but Pine was cast as their capable, wry, often no-nonsense Sergeant.
The series was rife with problems,mostly concerning the egos of the two principle stars and their own personal conflict at times, but Pine always stayed firmly grounded in the middle, refusing to take sides in their spats or to inflame any of the issues with his opinions one way or the other. (This easy working relationship is part of what has assured him a steady, fifty-year career in the biz!)
Eventually, Wilcox left the show altogether and was replaced by, first Tom Reilly and then Bruce Penhall. There was also a stretch when a striking Estrada required his brief replacement with Bruce Jenner. (Despite imdb.com's records, Estrada did not appear in EVERY CHiPs episode.) Through all the turmoil, Pine was a reliable constant.
During CHiPs, he would sometimes pop up on games shows like Beat the Clock or Match Game, allowing us the chance to see him in a more frivolous, less buttoned-up light. (He was on Match Game the time a very haughty then-unknown Kirstie Alley won over $5,000, a nice chunk of change at the time.)
On several occasions, Pine's real-life wife (since 1969) Gwynne Gilford appeared as his character's wife. An actress in her own right, she had costarred on a couple of failed sitcoms (shown here) along with quite a few other TV gigs. One was The Waverly Wonders (1978) opposite Joe Namath and the other was A New Kind of Family (1979-1980) alongside Eileen Brennan. Once the couple's two children were born, she phased out of acting and became a psychotherapist.
Pine, however, kept plugging along. When CHiPs was cancelled in 1983, he continued to guest star on programs like Hotel, Knight Rider, Murder, She Wrote, Dynasty, Magnum, P.I. and others. He'd also played a devious cavalryman in 1979's The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again while working on CHiPs.
He'd also done the obligatory episode of The Love Boat, portraying a priest.
His steady employment continued all through the late-'80s and early-'90s with him popping up on practically every notable series of the era. He's shown here with Georgia Engel, with whom he costarred in the 1985 TV-movie Papa Was a Preacher.
He's seen here with a young Jason Wiles during a 1993 episode of CBS Schoolbreak Special called "Big Boys Don't Cry," concerning allegations of child molestation.
He had a small role in Independence Day (1996) as a White House advisor and entered the sci-fi cult arena when he guest-starred on Star Trek: Voyager as an ambassador that same year. In 1998, most of the cast of CHiPs was gathered together for a reunion movie (a nostalgic trend that was happening for many long gone shows.) At this point, Pine was no longer a sergeant, but the highway patrol commissioner. CHiPs '99 was intended to be revived into a running series again, with two younger cops at the forefront, but that didn't materialize.
Occasional film appearances were balanced with TV work including But I'm a Cheerleader (1999), the 2001 TV series Black Scorpion, the 2001 Brian Bosworth movie Mach 2 (shown here) and the 2005 TV-movie Landslide (shown below.)
Then there was a recurring role on The Bold and the Beautiful and a part on another of the Star Trek series, this time as a Vulcan on Star Trek: Enterprise.
There was also a new arena to explore: the stage, with roles in “Viagra Falls” with '80s starlet Teresa Ganzel and “The Doctor's Dilemma” (shown here in 2011.)
As a diverse, multifaceted performer, Robert Pine frequently pops up in unexpected places. For example, he provided the voice for the bishop in the recent Disney spectacle Frozen (2013) and is still very active today at age seventy-three.
Of course, he has a new claim to fame now as the father of hot young cinematic leading man Christopher Pine! Robert and Gwynne first had daughter Katie before little Chris came along in 1980.
(It is occasionally misconstrued that Chris appeared on CHiPs in his mother's belly. While that was actually a plan, logistics pushed the filming back to where Chris was born and then Gwynne had to wear a pillow for the episode in question!) Katie went into the realm of psychology like her mother, while Chris followed in his father's footsteps.
Christopher, however, earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley before he ever pursued or accepted an on-screen acting role. Graduating in 2002, he landed his first role in 2003 on ER, with others in quick succession. A serious break came with The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement (2004.) He and his father even got to work together twice, in 2005's Confession and later in 2010's Small Town Saturday Night though the best was yet to come.
After several other movies and the occasional TV appearance, Chris Pine was chosen to play the young Captain Kirk in the 2009 re-boot Star Trek. The wildly popular movie was soon a burgeoning franchise and he shot to fame. In 2014, he was the star of another reboot Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
Not content to restrict himself to action films, he recently proved himself a worthy singer in the big screen adaptation of Into the Woods (2014) as Cinderella's Prince, swaggeringly roaming through the trees in search of his lady love while belting out the audience favorite “Agony” (which, sadly, had its reprise from Act 2 cut in this adaptation.)
So while I always adored Robert Pine and still do, his handsome and talented offspring has now come along to carry the acting baton forward. Fresh-scrubbed and suited-up or scruffy and rumpled, he's one of my few contemporary crushes!