Saturday, September 10, 2011


Cliff Robertson 1923-2011

Ordinarily, when someone with as long and as illustrious a career as Cliff Robertson passes away, I would try to be as comprehensive as possible in my appreciation. Unfortunately, because I've been so underwater in projects, I didn't receive the news until much later than I should have and the due dates of the projects require that I can't take myself away from them for too long a stretch. Before I write my short look at the career of Mr. Robertson, who died Saturday one day after his 88th birthday, I'd like to express regret for not finding a better photo of him as the slimy and manipulative presidential candidate Ben Cantwell in the 1964 film adaptation of Gore Vidal's play The Best Man. His at-any-costs maneuvers to wrestle the nomination away from Henry Fonda's William Russell, for me at least, was the best work Robertson ever did on screen.


  • 1955: Makes credited film debut in Oscar-nominated adaptation of William Inge's play Picnic.
  • 1956: Plays an unstable young man who woos and weds a lonely middle-age spinster (Joan Crawford) in Robert Aldrich's Autumn Leaves.
  • 1957: Appeared on Broadway in the original production of Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending.
  • 1958: Co-starred in Raoul Walsh's adaptation of Norman Mailer's debut novel about World War II The Naked and the Dead.
  • 1959: Played the infamous surfer The Big Kahuna opposite Sandra Dee in Gidget.
  • 1963: Starred as John Kennedy in the story of his World War II heroism in PT-109.
  • 1964: The aforementioned film The Best Man.
  • 1966: Appeared for the first time on TV's Batman as the dimwitted gunfighter villain Shame.
  • 1967: Played a gigolo helping Rex Harrison in a scheme to convince his mistresses that he's dying in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Honey Pot.
  • 1968: Won an Oscar for the title role in Charly, the adaptation of the short story "Flowers for Algernon" about an experimental drug that turns a retarded man into a genius though the effects are only temporary.
  • 1971: Co-wrote, directed and starred in J.W. Coop about a man who returns to the rodeo circuit after a stay in prison.
  • 1972: Played Cole Younger in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, Philip Kaufman's film about a botched robbery that the gangs of Younger and Jesse James teamed up to pull off.
  • 1975: Played Robert Redford's CIA section chief in Three Days of the Condor.
  • 1976: Starred as a man whose life is shattered when he loses his wife and daughter in Brian De Palma's Obsessed.
  • 1983: Got to wear pajamas as Hugh Hefner in Bob Fosse's final film, Star 80, about the life and murder of playmate Dorothy Stratten.
  • Got cuckolded by wife Jacqueline Bisset and his son Rob Lowe's best friend Andrew McCarthy in Class.
  • Co-starred with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood in Wood's final film, Brainstorm.
  • 1983-84: Played the role of Dr. Michael Ranson in the nighttime soap Falcon Crest.
  • 1994: Appeared as a colonel in the Danny DeVito comedy Renaissance Man.
  • 1996: Played the president in John Carpenter's Escape From L.A.
  • 2002: His first appearance as Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. He'd reappear in both of his sequels.

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