As a youth in his Indiana home town, Robert Keith picked up eating money as an illustrated-slide singer in movie houses. On stage from age 16, Keith worked in stock and on Broadway, taking time out from acting to write the 1927 play The Tightwad, a critical if not financial success. On the strength of The Tightwad, Keith was brought to Hollywood by Universal to write dialogue in the first years of the talkies; among his credits was the 1932 Tom Mix version of Destry Rides Again. He returned to Broadway to write another play, 1932's Singapore, then switched back to acting. Alternating between the films and the stage, Keith scored a personal triumph in the role of the philosophical Doc in the original 1947 Broadway production of Mister Roberts. He returned to Hollywood full time in 1949, etching such memorable screen characterizations as the weakling father of potential suicide Richard Basehart in Fourteen Hours (1951) and gimlet-eyed Inspector Brannigan in Guys and Dolls. Robert Keith was the father of actor Brian Keith, who during his own early years on stage billed himself as Robert Keith Jr.