A character actor who made a career out of guest starring on successful television series for five decades, Robert Pine's biggest claim to fame was playing the sarcastic and often exasperated commander of two hard-to-control motorcycle cops on the wildly popular series, "CHiPs" (NBC, 1977-1983). For six seasons, Pine played Sergeant Getraer, an officer with the California Highway Patrol who constantly dealt with the adventurous shenanigans of underlings Frank "Ponch" Poncherello and Jon Baker. Prior to his success on "CHiPs," he had a number of guest roles on shows like "The Virginian" (NBC, 1962-1971), "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975) and "Barnaby Jones" (CBS, 1973-1980), while later he appeared on "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986), "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) and "Dynasty" (ABC, 1981-89). While making a foray into daytime soaps with roles on "Days of Our Lives," (NBC, 1965- ) and "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS, 1987- ), Pine ventured into the realm of science fiction with episodes of "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001) and "Star Trek: Enterprise" (UPN, 2001-05). He landed occasional feature roles with "Independence Day" (1996), "But I'm a Cheerleader" (2000), and "Red Eye" (2005), though his career paled in comparison to son Chris Pine, who rose to stardom as Captain Kirk in the reboot of "Star Trek" (2009). Still, Pine maintained a busy schedule as a capable supporting actor who appeared in many big and small screen projects.
Born July 10, 1941 in New York City, Pine was raised in Scarsdale, NY, by his father, Granville, a patent attorney, and his mother, Virginia. Originally planning to study pre-med at Ohio Wesleyan University, he instead fell into acting thanks to the influence of brother, Philip Pine, a character actor 20 years his senior who appeared in numerous gangster films and Westerns in the 1940s before landing on TV in the 1960s and 1970s. Pine had his start on the small screen in the mid-1960s with the episode "A Lion Amongst Men" on "Kraft Suspense Theater" (NBC, 1963-65), which he followed with episodes of "Broadside" (ABC, 1964-65) and "Convoy" (NBC, 1965). He went about the standard practice of working television actors in that era by signing a contract with Universal Television and landing parts on shows like "Run for Your Life" (NBC, 1965-68) and "Lost in Space," (CBS, 1965-68). He also appeared on several Westerns, playing multiple characters on "The Virginian" (NBC, 1962-1971) and "Gunsmoke," (CBS, 1955-1975), while also logging guest spots on "Wild, Wild West" (CBS, 1965-69) and "Bonanza," (NBC, 1959-1973).
In the 1970s, Pine continued to pay his dues, appearing on primetime dramas such as "Medical Center" (CBS, 1969-1976) and "Barnaby Jones" (CBS, 1973-1980) before finally hitting pay dirt with his first starring role as Sergeant Getraer on the pop culture phenomenon, "CHiPs" (NBC, 1977-1983). Set in the world of the California Highway Patrol, Pine played the commanding officer of a pair of motorcycle cops, the straight-laced Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) and the rambunctiously macho Frank "Ponch" Poncherello (Erik Estrada), and brought a sarcastic exasperation to the officers' two-wheeled adventures on the L.A. freeways. A mix of light comedy and over-the-top action, "CHiPs" was a big hit that even spawned action figures and lunchboxes in the late 1970s. Though Wilcox left the series due to alleged favoritism towards Estrada, Pine stayed with the formulaic show throughout its six-season run. During that time, he appeared in films like "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again" (1979) had two children with wife, Gwynne Gilford, including son Chris Pine in 1980, who would go on to Hollywood fame decades later as a young Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams' reboot of "Star Trek" (2009).
After the California sun set on his high-profile cop gig, Pine spent the rest of the 1980s working steadily as a guest star on such popular series as "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986), "Hotel" (ABC, 1983-88), "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) and "Dynasty" (ABC, 1981-89). He also appeared in a third-season episode of "Family Ties, (NBC, 1982-89), playing a school dean, while in 1987 he turned to daytime soaps by landing the role of Walker Coleman on "Days of Our Lives," (NBC, 1965- ), before popping up intermittently as Stephen Logan for several seasons of "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS, 1987- ), which stretched from 1988-2000. Meanwhile, on the big screen, Pine was the president's Chief of Staff in the blockbuster "Independence Day" (1996) and continued his occasional sci-fi presence with a guest spot on "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001) that same year, playing an ambassador in the episode "The Chute." He would later resurface in the same universe, but as a different character on "Star Trek: Enterprise" (UPN, 2001-05) in 2002, and continued to make the occasional feature with "But I'm A Cheerleader" (2000), "All You Need" (2001) and "Confidence" (2003).
Returning to the role that made him famous Pine reprised the beleaguered Sgt. Getraer in the reunion movie, "CHiPs '99" (TNT, 1998), which proved to be a ratings hit at a time when 1970s nostalgia was hitting its stride. Both Estrada and Wilcox had signed on for the movie, reprising their iconic roles, which provided the cast with a bit of a bittersweet homecoming. Soon thereafter, Pine landed another regular role, playing Mayor Worth on the Roger Corman-produced "Black Scorpion," (2001, syndicated), which developed a small, but loyal following during its brief run. He went on to appear on a number of cable series, playing Basil for two episodes of "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-05) and Ben Hogan on the season five finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2000- ), while also logging guest spots on "Big Love" (HBO, 2006-2011) and "The Office" (NBC, 2005-2013). Back on the big screen, he was a weary traveler in the supernatural thriller "Red Eye" (2005), and had more prominent supporting roles in smaller films like "Love's Unfolding Dream" (Hallmark Channel, 2007) and "Lakeview Terrace" (2008). But television remained his bread and butter, as Pine racked up episodes of "Leverage" (TNT, 2008-2012), "The Mentalist" (CBS, 2008-15), "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2008-15), "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012) and "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007-2013).
By Shawn Dwyer