Toby Robins

Toby Robins

Toby Robins (1930 - 1986) was a noted Canadian actress and journalist.

Born in Toronto, 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.

Robins became a popular television personality when she joined 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, [Barris, Alex. Front Page Challenge: The 25th Anniversary (Toronto: CBC Books, 1981).] 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 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. [Ibid.]

After departing "Front Page Challenge", Robins relocated to Europe and she appeared in a number of film and television productions, including "" (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".

Robins died from breast cancer, aged 55, in 1986. In 1991, her widower, Bill Freedman, founded the Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research 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
* "" ... 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


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