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Toby Robins was a noted Canadian actress]]

Toby Robins, 1960

Toby Robins was born 13th March, 1931. She starred in hundreds of radio and stage productions in Canada from the late 1940s through the 1960s, working with such stars as Jane Mallett, Barry Morse, John Drainie, Ruth Springford, James Doohan, and many others. She appeared in a number of television and film roles beginning in the mid-1950s, and hosted the first-ever CBC Television series, The Big Revue in 1952.

She starred at the Stratford Festival opposite Christopher Plummer in 'Cyrano de Bergerac'. She also had leading parts in 'Measure for Measure' with James Mason and other plays with the likes of William Shatner.

In Toronto she played in repertory with Lorne Greene, Mavor Moore, Don Harron. This was in a company founded by Dora Mavor Moore, as well as playing Peter Pan for Dora. She also appeared with Eli Wallach.

At the Crest Theatre she played the leading parts in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', 'Dream Girl' and many others.

Robins became a popular television personality as an original member of the cast of the long-running CBC television series Front Page Challenge in 1957, remaining with the program until 1961. Originally hosted by Alex Barris and later Fred Davis, Front Page Challenge was a current events series disguised as a panel-style game show in a similar format to the American What's My Line?. Panelists had to guess the news story or person behind a news story by asking questions of the guest; after the game portion, the guest was then interviewed informally by the panel. Although Robins was initially criticized for asking simple and sometimes unintelligent questions,[1] she soon found her journalistic sea legs and before long was holding her own alongside the more experienced journalists, including her co-panellists Gordon Sinclair and Pierre Berton.

She was asked to run for Parliament by Lester Pearson and always joked that she probably would have been elected.

She left the series in a salary dispute in 1961 and was replaced by future senator Betty Kennedy (who remained with the show until its demise in the 1990s). Robins returned to the show from time to time as a guest panellist.

Alex Barris, in his book Front Page Challenge: the 25th Anniversary (CBC Books, 1981) relates that Robins became a major celebrity in Canada during her time on the series, to the extent that she was seen to be influential for appearing on the show while pregnant, and received angry letters (including a death threat) when she covered her trademark brunette hair with a blonde wig for a few shows. [2]

In Knowlton Nash's book about the origins of the CBC he said, 'Toby Robins was quite simply the most beautiful woman to star on Canadian television.'

In 1964 Robins relocated to London and she appeared in a number of film and television productions, including Space: 1999 (the two-parter "The Bringers of Wonder", which was later re-issued as the telefilm Destination Moonbase Alpha) and in 1981 she played Melina Havelock's ill-fated mother in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

On the London Stage Robins played star parts in two plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company: 'The Relapse' and 'The Latent Heterosexual'; 'Flip Side', 'Aspern Papers' with Vanessa Redgrave and Christopher Reeve.

Among other outstanding things she did was the film 'The Naked Runner' with Frank Sinatra and a Noel Coward double bill on television with Paul Scofield.

Robins died from breast cancer, aged 55, in 1986. In 1991, her family founded the Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Centre in London, which was opened in 1999 by HRH The Prince of Wales, with the aim of producing a coordinated program of research to tackle breast cancer. It is the first dedicated breast cancer research centre in the United Kingdom, and directly linked to one of the most renowned cancer facilities in the world, the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Partial filmography

  • Scandalous (1984) ... as Pamela Reynolds
  • Princess Daisy (1983) ... as Eleanour Kavanaugh
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981) ... as Iona Havelock
  • No 1: Licensed to Love and Kill ... as Scarlet Star
  • Destination Moonbase Alpha (1976) ... as Diana Morris
  • Paul and Michelle (1974) ... as Jane
  • Friends (1971) ... as Mrs. Gardner
  • Husbands and Lovers (1970) ... as Hedwig
  • The Naked Runner (1967) ... as Ruth
  • Game for Three Losers (1964) ... as Frances Challinor
  • The Big Revue (1952) ... as Co-host


  1. ^ Barris, Alex. Front Page Challenge: The 25th Anniversary (Toronto: CBC Books, 1981).
  2. ^ Ibid.

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