Clouds and sun

Robert Nichols

Robert Nichols, a singer, dancer and actor, enjoyed a career on stage, television and movies for nearly 70 years in London, New York and Los Angeles as well as Occidental, his home since 1991.

Nichols, an Oakland native who entertained troops during World War II and later performed on Broadway and in Hollywood films, died of heart failure at home on Thursday. He was 88.

Nichols' film credits included "The Thing," the original 1951 version that became a cult classic, "Giant" with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, and "The Red Badge of Courage" with Audie Murphy.

On television, he appeared in "Maverick," "Gunsmoke," "The Addams Family," "The Real McCoys" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Nichols, who started out as a song and dance man, favored the stage most of all, said his wife, Jennifer Nichols of Occidental.

"Live theater was absolutely the thing he loved," she said.

Nichols' distinction, in an industry known for many starving artists, was to have made a living as a "working actor," his wife said. "To survive in this business is a big deal."

His favorite Broadway role was in "Take Me Along," a musical based on the Eugene O'Neill play "Ah, Wilderness" in 1959.

Another career highlight was performing the role of Cap'n Andy in a 1988 recording of "Showboat," recognized as the best musical comedy recording of the decade.

To see Nichols in action, check the YouTube clip "Robert Nichols goes dancing," showing him in the 1952 movie "Sally and Saint Anne."

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