Saturday, December 4, 2021

Sebastian Cabot


This week at Six Feet Under Hollywood, we continue our month-long look at actors who have played Santa at one point or another in their career.

Charles Sebastian Thomas Cabot was born in London, England on July 6, 1918. His father owned and operated a family business, but by the early 1930s, it too was feeling the effect of the worldwide economic depression.  When Mr. Cabot closed the business, fourteen-year-old Sebastian quit school and never went back.

Having had an interest in automobiles from an early age, Cabot's first job was in a garage, where he served as a chauffeur and valet to British actor Frank Pettingell.  Through this relationship, Cabot himself became interested in the theatre and joined a local repertory company.  Although he had never attended drama school, he proved a quick study, and finding roles became that much easier.

Cabot's first credited role was in the 1936 film Alfred Hitchcock's Secret Agent. You can watch the film in its entirety on YouTube. He worked extensively throughout the 1940s, in such films as They Made Me a Fugitive (1947) and The Spider and The Fly (1949).

In the early 1950s, Cabot crossed the pond and started finding work in Hollywood.  His most memorable role during this era was in George Pal's production of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (right), playing a turn-of-the-century time-travel skeptic. He was also finding steady work as a voice actor, including the role of Noah in Igor Stravinsky's musical The Flood (1962).  You can listen to the production on YouTube.  Disney fans will no doubt recall Cabot's voice work in both The Sword and the Stone (1963) and The Jungle Book (1967).

Cabot was also finding work on American television, guest starring on such series as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBonanza, and The Red Skelton Show.  He also journeyed into The Twilight Zone playing Lucifer himself, in the classic episode "A Nice Place to Visit."

By 1966, Cabot had built an impressive resume, but had very little to show for it.  That year, he was persuaded to join the CBS series Family Affair (left) as Mr. Giles French, the role for which he is most famous.  Like his co-star Brian Keith, Cabot was no fan of the series, but was a fan of steady employment.  It ran for five seasons before being canceled in 1971.  Here's the series intro.

In 1973, Cabot took on the role that inspired this holiday blog, that of Kris Kringle in the made-for-TV remake of the classic film Miracle on 34th Street.  The film also starred a host of other 70s notables, including Roddy McDowell, Jim Backus and Tom Bosley.  You can see this star-studded remake in its entirety on YouTube.

By 1977, Cabot was living in Victoria, British Columbia, having mostly retired from acting.  On August 23, he suffered a stroke at his home and was transported to a local hospital, where he died at the age of 59.

Sebastian Cabot was cremated and his ashes were buried at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village in Los Angeles.

Rest in peace, Mr. French.


  • Later in life, Cabot admitted that when he was first starting out as a young actor, he had lied about having previous credits in order to procure employment.

  • As a young man, Cabot also gained employment as a chef.

  • In 1967, Cabot released a spoken word version of the Bob Dylan song "Like a Rolling Stone."  Really.  Check it out on YouTube.  If that ain't enough, check out his rendition of Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe," also on YouTube.

  • Mr. French was noticeably absent from a string of episodes of Family Affair, and the viewers were told he had been summoned back to England at the request of the Queen. In reality, Cabot took a leave of absence due to a serious illness.  He was temporarily replaced by actor John Williams, playing the part of Mr. French's brother. 

    You ever notice that whenever an actor leaves a show, the producers always bring in a new character who's supposed to be related?  Jill Munroe out, Kris Munroe in.  Chrissy Snow out, Cindy Snow in.  Julie McCoy out, Judy McCoy in.  And don't even get me started on Coy and Vance Duke.

  • Cabot shares his name with a famous explorer of the Americas, who came here shortly after Columbus's discovery of the New World.

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