Robert J. Wilke was a prolific American film and television actor. He appeared in nearly 300 movies and television shows during a career spanning 35 years, sometimes working as a stuntman. A familiar face in westerns, Wilke was typecast as a heavy. He portrayed Jim Pierce in the western "High Noon" (1952), starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges. Following this role, Wilke began garnering roles in more prominent movies and television shows. He had a recurring role as Capt. Mendoza in the Disney adventure series "Zorro" (1957–1959).
Wilke had many film roles, including Madden in the western "The Far Country" (1954), starring James Stewart; the First Mate of the Nautilus in the sci-fi adventure "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954), starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre; the guard captain in the film adaptation of Howard Fast's "Spartacus" (1960), starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Jean Simmons; Wallace in the John Sturges epic western "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter and James Coburn. He portrayed the farm foreman in the romantic tragedy "Days of Heaven" (1978), starring Richard Grace, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard; and in his final role, he played General Barnicke in the war comedy "Stripes" (1981), starring Bill Murray.
Wilke guest-starred in many popular television shows of the 1950s through the 70s, including the superhero series "Adventures of Superman" (1952–1958), the family drama "Lassie" (1954–1974), the crime drama "The Untouchables" (1959–1963), the private detective series "77 Sunset Strip" (1958–1964), the legal drama "Perry Mason" (1957–1966), the family comedy "My Three Sons" (1960–1972), the adventure drama "The Fugitive" (1963–1967), the western action adventure "The Wild Wild West" (1965–1969) and the western action adventure "Kung Fu" (1972–1975).
Wilke made two appearances in THE RIFLEMAN, portraying Florry Sheldon in "The Marshal" (episode 4) and Haskins in "The Pet" (episode 15). He guest-starred in many other westerns, including "The Lone Ranger" (1949–1957), starring Clayton Moore; The Gene Autry Show (1950–1956), Cheyenne (1955–1963), starring Clint Walker, "The Deputy" (1959–1961), starring Henry Fonda; "Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1958–1961), starring Steve McQueen; "Rawhide" (1959–1966), starring Clint Eastwood; "Wagon Train" (1957–1965), starring John McIntyre and Ward Bond; "Death Valley Days" (1952–1975), hosted by Robert Taylor; "Gunsmoke" (1955–1975), starring James Arness; and "Bonanza" (1959–1973), starring Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts. His actor friend Claude Akins, who also guest-starred in THE RIFLEMAN (episodes 8, 74 and 81), quipped that Wilke, who was a passionate golfer, earned more money playing golf than from acting.