Monday, February 18, 2019

You wanted to know . . . about Robert John Pittman (Seymour on Dennis the Menace)


Robert John Pittman as a child actor

I received the following email from a reader named Henry.

Hello, I've a question to submit. I enjoy the original Dennis the Menace with Jay North, and appreciate Seymour's character, as he usually comes off pretty cynical, opportunistic and to the point. I can find very little about him online, except that he died in 1990. Can you tell us anymore about Robert John Pittman, the actor who portrayed Seymour, and his life and death? Thanks.

Robert John Pittman played Dennis Mitchell's pal Seymour on the Dennis the Menace sitcom, which ran from 1959 to 1963.  As you pointed out, Henry, information on the internet about the life and death of this actor is sketchy, especially since he only had a brief career as a child.

Robert John Pittman was born on January 20, 1956 in Los Angeles, California (according to IMDb).  Another source (Find a Grave) states that he was born on September 9, 1956.  Robert was the only child of Montgomery Pittman (1917-1962), a television writer, director and actor,.and his wife, Maurita. Maurita had three children by her fist marriage: Curtis Loys Jackson Jr. and Sherry Jackson (Sherry played the role of Terry Williams on Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas).

Robert made his acting debut as Ajax in a 1960 episode of the crime drama 77 Sunset Strip, directed by his father.  The episode is entitled "Attic" (Season 3, Episode 1, Air Date September 16, 1960). TRIVIA NOTE:  Rusty Stevens, who played Larry Mondello on Leave it to Beaver, appeared in the same episode as a character named Max.

In 1960, Robert Pittman also made his first appearance on Dennis the Menace, starring Jay North.  It was an uncredited role and he played a "whistling little boy" in an episode entitled "Dennis Learns to Whistle" (Season 2, Episode 10, Air Date: December 4, 1960).  Robert next appeared in a 1961 episode of the show entitled "Dennis' Allowance" (Season 2, Episode 13, Air Date January 1, 1961).  He portrayed "Harold's brother" in the episode and was given a credit.  His third appearance on the show was as a character named Rikki in "Dennis Goes to Camp" (Season 2, Episode 21, Air Date: February 26, 1961).  It wasn't until his fourth appearance, in an episode entitled "The Fortune Cookie" (Season 2, Episode 35, Air Date: June 4, 1961), that Robert portrayed Seymour for the first time.  In total, Robert appeared in 32 of the 146 episode of Dennis the Menace over four seasons.

Robert didn't have much of a career after Dennis the Menace.  He had a role in a 1963 episode of Vacation Playhouse, a summer replacement show that featured pilot programs that had not been aired.  The episode is entitled "Come a-Runnin'" (Season 1, Episode 9, Air Date: September 16, 1963).  Robert's half-sister, Sherry Jackson, appeared in the same episode, as did Rance Howard (brother of Ron), Alan Hale Jr. (the Captain on Gilligan's Island) and Susan Seaforth Hayes of Days of Our Lives fame. 

In 1964, Robert guest-starred in an episode of a short-lived comedy, Grindl, starring Imogene Coca.  He played Clydie Strunk in an episode called "There's No Such Thing as a Bad Barracuda."  That was his last TV credit.  His final acting credit was for his role as Landlord of the Two Trees in Remembrance, a 1982 full length feature film.  He has no acting credits on IMDb between 1965 and 1981.

According to Find a Grave, Robert is buried at St. Johns Catholic Cemetery in Plum City, Pierce County, Wisconson and he died on November 3, 1990 at the age of 34.  According to IMDb, he died in Maui, Hawaii in 1990.  Details of his death have not been revealed, most likely for personal and private reasons.  However, someone who identifies himself as Rufus and claims to have met Robert in 1980, when he was "doing some TV in L.A., wrote the following online.  It is dated October 8, 2009.

I read here that Robert John Pitt may have passed away. I do not believe this.

I did know he was in Hawaii for some time. I wrote the 9/12/2008 blog below “Robert John Pittman – Seymour” … as I stated I met Robert in 1980 when I was doing some plays & TV in LA. We became fast friends and spent a lot of time together for ~ 5 months. Robert used another name as an adult. He showed me his wallet ID information shortly after we met to make the point. He said that although Robert John Pittman was his name he now considered it his performer name. Robert explained it was just easier to do it this way … he said this with the perpetual smile he always wore. Being such I will not disclose this adult name. Robert had a lot of amusing to funny stories about the TV series … some gossipy but all positive and he considered the TV experience good for him … he joked about the “child actor category” he found himself involved with but he considered it natural as his older half-sister had been a child actor also. He did state more than once that during productions Jay North was always roped off from the other kids and that no one was allowed to talk to him. Robert said sometimes, as Robert being a little kid that Robert felt anxious that he could not get close to this other kid except when shooting a scene.

Robert’s immediate family is a story of exceptionally talented persons in both film and particularly television: his half-sister (by the same mother) is actress Sherry Jackson who was the older sister on the TV sitcom “Make Room For Daddy” and she was also one of Ma & Pa Kettle’s kids in the movie series along with countless other TV and movie roles. His mother, unfortunately whom I never met, was a TV screen writer. At the time Robert and I knew each other his mother was involved with the production of a TV movie about Elvis Presley where Shelly Winters played Elvis’ mother. That’s all I remember on that. His dad was the prolific actor/director Montgomery Pittman who started in TV work during what is now known as the Golden Age of Television: the 1950s. His dad directed lots & lots of television productions but I remember him best for Twilight Zone episodes directing great actors like Jack Elam and Lee Marvin. Robert said his dad passed away at the time of the Dennis the Menace series. Robert came to the Dennis the Menace series as an experienced TV child actor having been previously directed by his father on another show. The combined stories in a book of Robert’s fascinating family would make a significant contribution to television history. 

What caused my below 9/12/2008 blog is that by accident I saw, changing TV channels this past year, Dennis the Menace with Robert. I decided to contact Robert. Last year using the adult name I know Robert by and his actor name + Internet search engines + a combination of my other memory items I did locate Robert’s adult-name current address. I confirmed via a college buddy, a postal worker, that it was indeed an active address with that particular name (and the name also matched Robert’s age). This was this last year.

I wrote Robert a letter last year and offered a lunch rendezvous next time I was in his area. I never got a response. [I did not entirely expect a response … mind you my letter was in-part greatly an apology …. our friendship ended on an unpleasant note entirely due to my fault/my poor behavior.] I sent the letter and I believe Robert read it. In turn, the letter never came back from the postal service as ‘undelivered’ for either this particular address or this particular name. 

Reading an email of a good friend’s rumored death caused me to ask a retired police officer friend of mine to verify his death. Marcia found neither obituaries nor death records for the State of Hawaii or the greater Los Angeles area for Robert John Pittman or his other adult name that I know him by.

For bloggers who knew Robert as an adult and therefore to them to verify my blog credibility: Robert and I were in our 20s when we met. As a young adult Robert was handsome ~ 5’10” slender built with curly brown hair ~ 2” long / never parted. Robert, as an adult, also kept the endearing sleepy-eyed looks that little Seymour had. 

Considering Robert’s private nature I will no longer blog on him … it’s just that reporting a death erroneously or “I heard story” of such a superb old acquaintance is far-fetched for me. With a great deal of certainty Robert John Pittman is alive. 

PS My sincere apologies to Robert for my writing all this. Looks like I am full of apologies Robert. I was only considering TV fans in writing this. I wish the best for you Robert..

-  Rufus



Someone who signed himself as "Zoneboy" made the following response to Rufus.

The information I received regarding Mr. Pittman came from Dr. Jeanne Russell who played Margaret Wade on the show (Dennis the Menace). I wrote to her asking her to confirm the passing of Billy Booth (Tommy Anderson) and she did. I asked about Robert John and she said he died years ago and believed he was living in Hawaii at the time. She had no further details on his passing. If you wish to contact her yourself, You can do so at DrRussell@JeanneRussellChiropractic.com I hope that Dr. Russell was in error because I really liked him. He was a gifted actor and was great as Seymour.


Sherry Jackson, Roberts's sister, made some comments on her website in response to the following question:

"Hi Sherry

i'm a big fan of yours and i have a question

i had read that the little boy that played the role of Seymour on Dennis The Menace Robert Pittman is your brother...is this true? i really enjoyed him on that show and was wondering is he still in the business?"



"Dear Maserati,

Welcome to my website! Good question...Robert John Pittman was my half brother from Monty....He made quite a few "Dennis the Menace" playing the part of "Seymour"He was my best friend....I miss him ....He Passed away in Maui, in 1990


Love and Light Sherry"


END NOTES

* Robert's father, Montgomery Pittman, died of cancer on June 26, 1962.  He was only 45 years old at the time of his passing.  His marriage to Robert's mother lasted until his death.

* In 1967, Robert appeared as himself on the Eamonn Andrews Show, a talk show on ITV in the United Kingdom.


- Joanne

1 comment:

  1. The Pittmans owned a cabin in Idyllwild, CA, next to my family's during the late 1960s to early 70s (after Robert's acting career) and my sisters and I always looked forward and hoped Robert would be up when we visited the cabin. We would all play at the creek, slide down the pine-needle slopes on his Yankee clipper sled and had a great time. I remember meeting his mother only once, and she struck me a reclusive and aloof. I always wondered what became of him after this time.

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