Forties TV and movie hunk Robert Sterling has lost his battle with shingles and died at his Brentwood, California home. He was 88. The ghostly star of TV's TOPPER was born William Hart in 1917 in Pennsylvania, the son of baseball star WILLIAM S HART. After working briefly as a clothing salesman, Sterling made his mark as a movie star and changed his name, so as not to be confused with silent screen actor WILLIAM S HART. He really hit his stride in 1941, when he starred in five of the year's top films, including TWO-FACED WOMAN, in which he starred alongside Greta Garbo, and THE PENALTY. He wed actress Ann Sothern in 1943 and they had a daughter, TISHA - but the marriage wasn't destined to last and Sterling divorced his first wife in 1949. In 1951, he wed his second wife, actress Anne Jeffreys, who was with the actor when he died yesterday (31MAY06). Sterling and Jeffreys had three sons and teamed up to become a US TV institution in the mid 1950s as the stars of movie spinoff Topper, in which the couple played ghosts. Sterling retired from acting in the 1970s so he could concentrate his efforts as a computer businessman. He returned to the limelight briefly in the 1980s as a guest star in TV series HOTEL and MURDER, SHE WROTE.