Sebastian Cabot

Sebastian Cabot

Cabot, Sebastian, b. 1483-86?, d. 1557, explorer in English and Spanish service; son of John Cabot. He may well have accompanied his father on the 1497 and 1498 voyages, and he was for many years given the credit for his father's achievements. In the 19th cent., scholars, finding discrepancies in the Sebastian stories, branded him an impostor and applied his accounts to the 1498 voyage of John Cabot. However, recent research indicates that the Sebastian narratives relate to a later voyage (1509) made in search of the Northwest Passage. He may have reached Hudson Bay. In 1512 he entered Spanish service and in 1518 became chief pilot. After the return of Magellan's ship Victoria, he sailed (1526) from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with the ostensible purpose of loading spices in the Moluccas. Instead he explored the Río de la Plata country, spending several years along the Paraguay, Plata, and Paraná rivers, but the hostility of the Native Americans and the scarcity of food forced him to leave the country. He returned to Spain in 1530, a distrusted and discredited man. In 1548 he reentered English service, and in 1553 he became governor of a joint-stock company (later the Muscovy Company) organized to seek a Northeast Passage and open trade with China. Under his instructions an expedition sailed the same year under Sir Hugh Willoughby, who was lost in midvoyage and was replaced by Richard Chancellor. The expedition reached the White Sea, and a commercial treaty was negotiated with Russia, breaking the monopoly of the Hanseatic League.

See C. R. Beazley, John and Sebastian Cabot: The Discovery of North America (1964); R. C. Howard, Bristol and the Cabots (1967); R. Biddle, A Memoir of Sebastian Cabot (repr. 1970); David Goodnough, John Cabot and Son (1979).

Sebastian Cabot (July 6, 1918 – August 22, 1977) was an English film and television actor, best remembered as the gentleman's gentleman Giles French in the 1960s sitcom Family Affair.

Early career

Cabot was born in London, England. His career began with a bit part in Foreign Affaires (1935); his first screen credit was in Alfred Hitchcock's Secret Agent (1936). Other British films such as Love on the Dole, Pimpernel Smith, Old Mother Riley: Detective, and Old Mother Riley: Overseas followed. In 1946, he portrayed Iago in Othello. By 1947, Cabot had relocated to Hollywood, and landed roles in such films as They Made Me A Fugitive, Third Time Lucky, The Spider and the Fly, Ivanhoe, Babes in Baghdad, The Love Lottery, Westward Ho the Wagons, and the 1954 Italian version of Romeo and Juliet as Lord Capulet. In 1960 he appeared in George Pal's production of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine as Dr. Hillyer.

At about this time Cabot began taking on television work, appearing in such series as Along the Oregon Trail, The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, Checkmate, The Beachcomber, and an appearance in The Twilight Zone episode "A Nice Place to Visit", as the white-suited, courtly provider of a vain but disillusioned man's every wish. Cabot was also a regular panelist on the TV game show Stump the Stars. In 1964, Cabot hosted the short-lived television series, Suspense, and voiced or narrated a few other film and television projects, before he was cast as Giles French in the CBS series Family Affair.


Cabot didn't cease his other film and television work during the series' run — in fact, he took a leave of absence from Family Affair at one point during the series' run — (his stand-in: an actor often typecast as a butler or a detective - veteran British character actor John Williams, who played French's brother Niles in Family Affair) and he worked well in voice roles (Bagheera in The Jungle Book; the narrator of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day; host of Journey to Midnight as well as the voice of Sir Ector in The Sword in the Stone (1963)). But he was so vivid as French that he never shook the image even after Family Affair finally ended production in 1971. He received another role as the host (Winston Essex) of Ghost Story, a supernatural anthology. Perhaps Cabot's most memorable role following the series' demise was in the television remake of Miracle on 34th Street.


Cabot appeared in another Christmas project, the television film The City That Forgot About Christmas (1974), and narrated two more Pooh projects, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too! and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, before his death of a stroke in North Saanich, British Columbia, Canada, at age 59. He lived his final years near Sidney, British Columbia.

A memorable career high point was his two-year stint as one of the three leads on Eric Ambler's 1960 detective show Checkmate, which co-starred Doug McClure. A more dubious legacy exists in his spoken recitations of songs by Bob Dylan on the album Sebastian Cabot, actor/Bob Dylan, poet. Two tracks from this album appear on the Rhino Records compilation Golden Throats: The Great Celebrity Sing Off.

Sebastian Cabot is interred in the urn garden in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, near Brian Keith.

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