Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Robert Phillips: The Ruppelt Factor

In the mid-seventies, I came to the very wrong conclusion that Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt played his own role in "U.F.O." In fact, until I recently found a 30-year-old letter from Al Chop, I had forgotten that Al's erroneous confirmation that Ruppelt played himself weighed heavily on my assertion that this was the case. In recent years, thanks to the tireless work of researchers such as Wendy Connors (Faded Discs) and the availability of the Internet, it became apparent that Ruppelt was portrayed by another. Unfortunately, my early magazine article put the false information into print for all time.

Researcher Barry Greenwood has kindly provided information about Ed Ruppelt's "double." His role was filled by actor Robert Phillips (see photo, said to be either from CBS-TV or Paramount Pictures, depicting him in Star Trek's "The Menagerie" episode), and Greenwood recently updated Phillips's site at It is interesting to note that, unlike most of the "actors" in the movie, who were actually off-duty Los Angeles law enforcement personnel, Phillips was a professional actor as well as an L.A. policeman. Significant details: Phillips was born on April 10, 1925 in Chicago, was six feet in height and played pro football for both the Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears. As a Marine, he taught swimming and self-defense.

Phillips served as bodyguard for Adlai Stevenson when he was governor, and worked undercover for the L.A.P.D. And who would have guessed that his experience as a cop (lieutenant) provided the framework for "Tightrope," the popular TV show starring Mike Connors? Phillips also put out a book during his career, entitled Sixty-One Ways to End an Argument.

One glaring discrepancy, by the way, in "U.F.O." occurs as Ruppelt (Phillips) explains to Al Chop (Towers) how a planet shining brightly in the sky was responsible for a UFO sighting. The Ruppelt character states the incident happened on December 1, 1952 -- but that date would actually be far in the future, because not even the July, 1952 UFO events over Washington, D.C. had occurred at this point in the motion picture script. Just another one of those things. . .