‘Unsolved Mysteries’: What Happened to Original Host Robert Stack?

Netflix has rebooted the beloved true-crime series Unsolved Mysteries. But the new show, which arrives on the streaming service July 1, doesn’t look exactly like the original. While earlier versions on Unsolved Mysteries featured multiple investigations in a single one-hour episode, the new version focuses on one case at a time. Even more jarringly for fans who associate the series with the trench-coated Robert Stack, the resurrected show has done away with the host. 

Robert Stack wasn’t the original host of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ 

Robert Stack
Robert Stack | Margaret Norton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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Unsolved Mysteries is indelibly associated with Stack, whose deep voice lent an air of spooky gravitas to each segment. But the series (which aired in various versions and on different channels from 1987 to 2010) actually had several hosts over the years. 

Raymond Burr — well-known to TV viewers as Perry Mason — handled the hosting duties in the pilot. Karl Malden also hosted a handful of specials before Stack took over and the show became a full-fledged series in 1988. Later on, Virginia Madsen stepped in as co-host. From 2008 to 2010, Dennis Farina hosted a version of the show that mostly featured repackaged segments from older episodes. 

Why the new ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ doesn’t have a host 

Stack died in 2003. Rather than attempt to replace him, the team behind the Unsolved Mysteries reboot decided to skip having a host altogether. 

“We have … opted for a hostless format, because the late, legendary Robert Stack was a singular and irreplaceable presence,” explained executive producer Shawn Levy in a statement. “In Robert’s absence, we are letting the spirit and the strength of the stories carry the narrative. Above all, our aspiration was to make a new chapter worthy of his memory and of iconic contribution to this iconic series.”

Stack was such a memorable part of Unsolved Mysteries that producers felt trying to bring in a new face would simply not work. 

“We know our loyal audience will miss host Robert Stack as much as we do, but we hope mystery lovers old and new will embrace this next chapter, knowing that no one could fill Bob’s shoes,” said producers Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove, who also created the original series. 

Stack had a long career in Hollywood 

Cast of the TV show The Untouchables
Robert Stack (third from left) in The Untouchables | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

For TV viewers who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, Stack is probably most associated with his work on Unsolved Mysteries. But he had a long career in Hollywood dating back to the 1930s. He made his movie debut in the 1939 film First Love. The young actor gave actress Deanna Durbin her first onscreen kiss in the movie, which helped turned him into a matinee idol, according to his obituary. He starred as the romantic lead in several more films in the early 1940s before joining the Navy in World War II. 

After the war, Stack returned to Hollywood, where his star continued to rise. He scored a best supporting actor Oscar nomination in 1957 for Written on the Wind. In 1959, he began starring as the legendary Eliot Ness in the TV series The Untouchables, which ran until 1963. His work on that show earned him an Emmy award in 1960. Later in his career, he appeared in comedies such as Airplane! and Caddyshack II. He continued to work regularly into his 80s. In 2003, Stack died at his home of a heart attack at age 84. 

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