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Robert Ellenstein

Updated on June 2, 2016
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I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Bio Stats

Born: 13 June 1923 (Newark, New Jersey, USA)

Died: 28 October 2010 (Los Angeles, California, USA)

Cause of Death: Natural Causes

Film and TV Appearances: 121+

Years Active: 1954 - 1998

North by Northwest (1959)

as Licht
as Licht

Early Life

Robert Ellenstein was born on 13 June 1923. His father, Meyer was a dentist and later mayor of Newark from 1933 to 1941.

He studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research in New York City before enlisting in the Army Air Corps at the beginning of World War Two. During his service, he was wounded in action and earned a Purple Heart.

After World War Two, Ellenstein studied at New York University before he went to the University of Iowa and graduated (with honors) with a degree in Theater Arts. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he directed plays at local theaters and taught in Cleveland, Ohio. Whilst in Cleveland he also acted at the Cleveland Play House.

In 1952, Ellenstein married Lois Sylvia Stang (they remained married until his death). At some time, later on, Ellenstein moved with his young family to California in order to take advantage of the many opportunities available there.

Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

as Dr. Emil Gorin in the episode "The Exchange" (season 5)
as Dr. Emil Gorin in the episode "The Exchange" (season 5)


After moving to Los Angeles, Ellenstein made his film debut in the 1954 movie Rogue Cop.

Some of the other films he appeared in were Illegal (1955); 3:10 to Yuma (1957); Too Much, Too Soon (1958); The Gazebo (1959); Pay or Die (1960); The Big Bankroll (1961); Deathwatch (1966); The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968); Love at First Bite (1979); and Brewster's Millions (1985).

Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986)

as the Federation Council President
as the Federation Council President


Television movies he appeared in were Mandrake the Magician (1954); Mr. Broadway (1957); A Bell for Adano (1967); To Die in Paris (1968); Wheeler and Murdoch (1972); Breaking Up is Hard to Do (1979); and Run Till You Fall (1988).

Some of the TV shows he guest starred on were The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse; The Whistler; Robert Montgomery Presents; The Big Story; Mike Hammer; Perry Mason; The Lawless Years; Alcoa Premiere; Hawaiian Eye; The Untouchables; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Combat!; The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; The Big Valley; The Wild, Wild West; Ironside; Marcus Welby, M.D.; McCloud; CHiPs; Magnum P.I.; Moonlighting; Murder, She Wrote; Star Trek: The Next Generation; and ER.

Ellenstein also directed an episode of the TV Series Love on the Rooftop entitled "Going Home to Daughter" in 1967. He was also sometimes credited as Bob Ellenstein or Robert Ellin.

One Step Beyond (1959)


Ellenstein had a wide and varied career on stage. He directed and appeared in many plays over a 60+ year career. He was a prominent force in three theatre companies in the Los Angeles area...

  • He was the first Artistic Director of the Company of Angels Theater, co-founded by his long-time friend, Leonard Nimoy. Both he and Nimoy were honored together at the 50th anniversary of the theater in 2009.
  • Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Repertory Company.
  • Founding member of Theatre West in Hollywood.

Theaters he appeared and directed plays in during his life included the Old Globe Theatre, Gaslamp Quarter Theatre (San Diego), the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arizona Civic Theatre, and the Mark Taper Forum.

Some of the plays he acted in were Irma La Douce (the 1960s); A Shayna Maidel (1991); Rocket to the Moon (1992); King Lear (1999).

Some of the plays he directed were Hamlet (1977); Romeo and Juliet; The Comedy of Errors and Back to Methuselah.

I just remember watching my father be bigger than life and have more fun than anyone I’d ever seen. And I said, that’s what I want to do. What could be better than that?

— David Ellenstein

In 1998, Ellenstein was one of the voice actors in productions of "The Invisible Man", "The Time Machine", and "Journey to the Center of the Earth" for Alien Voices, which was an audiobook project set up by Leonard Nimoy and actor John DeLancie.

Robert Ellenstein died on 28 October 2010 from natural causes in a Los Angeles nursing home. He was survived by his wife Lois, his two sons David (Artistic Director of the North Coast Repertory Theatre) and Peter (actor, director, and educator) and his daughter Jan.

North by Northwest (1959)

North By Northwest
North By Northwest

Robert Ellenstein appears as Licht in this movie.



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