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                        Celebrating the Art of Cinema, ... and Cinema as Art


                                                                                         

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In Memoriam
September / October 2011
In Memoriam - Profiles:
* (June 2012) Ray Bradbury 
* (October 2011) Cliff Robertson
* (July 2011) Peter Falk

* (May 2011) Tim Hetherington



Robertson with Emmy for 1965's THE GAME
    
CLIFF NOTES ...
CLIFF ROBERTSON (1923 - 2011)
"Not One of the Golden Six..."

     The film medium lost one of it's true greats when beloved character icon CLIFF ROBERTSON passed away of natural causes Saturday Aug. 10, 2011 - one day after his 88th birthday.   Best known for his work in dramas such as PT 109 (1963), and CHARLY (for which he won the 1968 Best Actor Oscar), he once joked in 1967, "I'm not one of the Golden Six" - referring to how the best roles were always offered to the top male stars of the day.  Even roles he'd earlier originated on TV and stage seemed to go to others when making the leap to the big screen - DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES to Jack Lemmon, THE HUSTLER to Paul Newman, and ORPHEUS DESCENDING to Marlon Brando.  "I take what's left over" he said.  "Left overs" he'd turn into one tour de force of an acting feast after another.   


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 As young JFK in PT 109 (1963)

     Born in La Jolla, California, the parents of CLIFFORD PARKER "CLIFF" ROBERTSON, III divorced when he was only one year old.  Within a year his mother would pass away and he'd be raised by his maternal grandmother.   After graduating high school he'd do a short stint in the Merchant Marines during WW2, then attended Antioch College Ohio before leaving early to work as a journalist.   His early acting career was mostly uncredited bits in films and guest roles on various television shows until his feature film breakthrough -  as John F. Kennedy's personal choice to portray the younger WW2 version of himself  in 1963's PT 109 (Jackie Kennedy actually wanted Warren Beatty).  



     In 1968 he'd take the world by storm with his stirring performance in CHARLY.  Based on Daniel Keyes' 1958/59 short story (and later novel) "Flowers For Algernon", Robertson portrayed mentally retarded bakery employee Charlie Gordon, who's intelligence grows exponentially after an experimental brain operation.  CHARLY would win Robertson his first and only Oscar for Best Actor, though just three years prior he'd also won a Best Actor Emmy for his performance in the TV drama THE GAME (1965).  He'd follow throughout the 1970s with roles in films such as THE GREAT NORTHFIELD MINNESOTA RAID (1972) - as Jesse James gang member Cole Younger,  MAN ON A SWING ('74),  MIDWAY ('76) and Brian DePalma's popular Hitchcock homage OBSESSION ('76) until inadvertently triggering an LAPD / FBI Hollywood embezzling investigation when a check with his forged signature was traced back to Columbia Pictures head David Begelman.  He'd be unofficially "blacklisted" by many in the industry until his return to film in Douglas Trumball's 1983 sci fi thriller BRAINSTORM.
  

As dimwitted cowboy villain Shame on TV's BATMAN (1966 - '68)


     While justifiably revered for his dramatic work, we very much appreciated the "other" Robertson - the one who enjoyed with childhood glee, his forays into the genre world ... much of which has gone unmentioned in various printed and online obits and tributes, as respectful as they may be.  In this lighter vein older viewers fondly remember him for appearances in the original THE TWILIGHT ZONE ("A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" - 1961, and "The Dummy" - 1962 ... as an
alcoholic ventriloquist who swears his dummy is telling him to do fiendish things); both the original and 1990's versions of THE OUTER LIMITS (appearing in one of the series most popular entries "The Galaxy Being" - 1963); and his campy guest appearances in four episodes of TV's BATMAN (between 1966 - '68) as the villainous but dimwitted western outlaw Shame, who returned time and again to Gotham City to square off with Adam West's caped crusader.  Of his role as Shame, Robertson fondly recalled:  

        "I Think I do remember the producers making several phone calls ahead of time, saying, ' What kind of character would you like to play? ' I said it might be fun to play a very, very, very dumb cowboy, who took himself very, very seriously. Then they decided to do a takeoff of Shane. That is how they came up with the name Shame. I recall they kind of let me pick my own costume, and I did a lot of my own stunts."


Creepy "switcheroo" climax to TWILIGHT ZONE's "The Dummy" (orig. air date 5/4/62)

 

Shadowy CIA Dir. Higgins - THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975)
   

      Robertson's other genre entries included roles in Douglas Trumball's aforementioned groundbreaking IMAX precursor BRAINSTORM ('83), his performance as diabolical CIA Deputy Director Higgins in Sydney Pollack's seminal paranoia thriller THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975), appearances in John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM LA (1996), the Stephen King adaptation RIDING THE BULLET (2004), and of course as Peter Parker's beloved Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN (2002) where, with his patented dulcet voice, he uttered the immortal line "With great power comes great responsibility".  That memorable voice would also be the TV spokesman in a series of AT&T television spots for ten years. 

      A true Renaissance man, Robertson was also in his private life an accomplished aviator.  He'd carry this passion on occasion to film, portraying a barnstorming pilot in the Steven Spielberg written ACE ELI AND ROGER OF THE SKIES (1973), Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the adaptation of Aldrin's 1973 autobiography RETURN TO EARTH, and he'd direct and star in 1980'S THE PILOT - the story of an alcoholic passenger airline crewman.  




SPIDER-MAN (2002) "With great power ..."



      While never a member of "the Golden Six", few of them enjoyed a career as long and lauded as that of Cliff Roberston.  He is survived by his daughter Stephanie (b. 1958)




                                       
                                                                                                                            CEJ - Sept. 2011
       

CLIFF ROBERTSON filmography:

2007 Spider-Man 3
2004 Riding the Bullet
2004 Spider-Man 2
2003 The Lyon's Den (TV series)
– Hubris (2003) … Hal Molloy
– Separation Anxiety (2003) … Hal Malloy
– The Quantum Theory (2003) … Hal Malloy
– The Fifth … Hal Malloy
2002 13th Child
2002 Spider-Man
2001 Falcon Down
2001 Mach 2
1999 Family Tree
1999 The Outer Limits (TV series)
– Joyride (1999)
1998 Assignment Berlin
1998 Race
1996 Escape from L.A.
1995 Dazzle (TV movie)
1995 Waiting for Sunset
1994 Renaissance Man
1992 Lincoln (TV movie)
1992 Wind
1991 Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
1990 Dead Reckoning (TV movie)
1987 Ford: The Man and the Machine (TV movie)
1987 Malone
1986 Dreams of Gold: The Mel Fisher Story (TV movie)
1986 Shaker Run
1985 The Key to Rebecca (TV movie)
1983-1984 Falcon Crest (TV series)
– Ashes to Ashes (1984) … Dr. Michael Ranson
– The Avenger (1984) … Dr. Michael Ranson
– For Better, for Worse (1984) … Dr. Michael Ranson
– Win, Place, and Show (1984) … Dr. Michael Ranson
– Love's Triumph (1984) … Dr. Michael Ranson
1983 Brainstorm
1983 Class
1983 Star 80
1982 Two of a Kind (TV movie)
1980 Dominique
1980 The Pilot
1979 The Little Prince (short)
Narrator/Pilot (voice)
1978 Overboard (TV movie)
1977 Washington: Behind Closed Doors (TV mini-series)
– Part 6 (1977) … William Martin
– Part 5 (1977) … William Martin
– Part 4 (1977) … William Martin
– Part 3 (1977) … William Martin
– Part 2 (1977) … William Martin
1977 Fraternity Row
The Narrator
1976 Obsession
1976 Midway
1976 Shoot
1976 Return to Earth (TV movie)
1975 Three Days of the Condor
1975 Out of Season
1975 My Father's House (TV movie)
1974 The Yanks Are Coming (TV movie)
Narrator
1974 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (TV movie)
1974 Man on a Swing
1973 The Man Without a Country (TV movie)
1973 Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies
1972 The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
1971 J.W. Coop
1970 Too Late the Hero
1969 Bracken's World (TV series)
– Stop Date (1969) 
1968 The Sunshine Patriot (TV movie)
1968 Charly
1968 The Devil's Brigade
1966-1968 Batman (TV series)
– The Great Train Robbery (1968) … Shame
– The Great Escape (1968) … Shame
– It's How You Play the Game (1966) … Shame
– Come Back, Shame (1966) … Shame
1964-1967 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (TV series)
District Attorney Benjamin Reynolds / Eddie Finneran / Quincey Parke / …
– Verdict for Terror (1967) … District Attorney Benjamin Reynolds
– And Baby Makes Five (1966) … Will Nye
– The Game (1965) … Quincey Parke
– The Meal Ticket (1964) … Eddie Finneran
1967 The Red Skelton Hour (TV series)
– Episode #16.27 (1967)
1967 The Honey Pot
1967 ABC Stage 67 (TV series)
– The Trap of Solid Gold (1967)
1965 Up from the Beach
1965 Masquerade
1965/I Love Has Many Faces
1964 633 Squadron
1964 The Best Man
1964 Breaking Point (TV series)
– So Many Pretty Girls, So Little Time (1964)
1964 Suspense (TV series)
1963 Sunday in New York
1963 The Greatest Show on Earth (TV series)
– The Circus Never Came to Town (1963) 
1963 The Outer Limits (TV series)
– The Galaxy Being (1963) 
1963 PT 109
1963 The Eleventh Hour (TV series)
– The Man Who Came Home Late (1963)
1963 My Six Loves
1962 The Interns
1961-1962 Twilight Zone (TV series)
– The Dummy (1962) 
– A Hundred Yards over the Rim (1961)
1962 Alcoa Premiere (TV series)
– Second Chance (1962)
1962 Ben Casey (TV series)
– For the Ladybug, One Dozen Roses (1962) … Lt. Col. Stanley Wensby/Eddie Smith
1962 Golden Showcase (TV series)
– Saturday's Children (1962)
1962 Bus Stop (TV series)
– How Does Charlie Feel? (1962)
1960-1962 Outlaws (TV series)
– The Dark Sunrise of Griff Kincaid (1962) … Griff Kincaid
– The Connie Masters Story (1961) … Jack Masters
– Ballad for a Badman (1960) … Chad Burns
1956-1961 The United States Steel Hour (TV series)
– Man on the Mountain Top (1961) … Horace Mann Borden
– The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon (1961) … Charlie Gordon
– The Man Who Knew Tomorrow (1960)
– A Fair Shake (1956) … Frank
1961 The Dick Powell Theatre (TV series)
– The Geetas Box (1961) … Danny Langdon
1961 Underworld U.S.A.
1961 The Big Show
1961 All in a Night's Work
1961 G.E. True Theater (TV series)
– The Small Elephants (1961) … Pegosi
1960 Riverboat (TV series)
– End of a Dream (1960) … Martinus Van Der Brig
1958-1960 Playhouse 90 (TV series)
– The Cruel Day (1960) … Lieutenant
– The Days of Wine and Roses (1958) … Joe Clay
– Natchez (1958) … Danny Carson
1959 The Untouchables (TV series)
– The Underground Railway (1959) … Frank Halloway
1959 Alcoa Theatre (TV series)
– Shadow of Evil (1959) … Parker Sefton
– Goodbye Johnny (1959) … Johnny
1959 As the Sea Rages
1959 Battle of the Coral Sea
1959 Gidget
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (TV series)
– The Hard Road (1959) … Johnny Garth
1958 Wagon Train (TV series)
– The Liam Fitzmorgan Story (1958) … Liam Fitzmorgan
1958 The Naked and the Dead
1958 The Girl Most Likely
1957 Kraft Theatre (TV series)
– Vengeance (1957)
– The Big Break (1957)
1956 Autumn Leaves
1956 Celebrity Playhouse (TV series)
– They Flee by Night (1956) … Jed Warron
1955 Picnic
1952-1954 Robert Montgomery Presents (TV series)
Paul Skinner
– Ten Minute Alibi (1954)
– Home Town (1954)
– The Expert (1954)
– In His Hands (1954)
– Pilgrim's Pride (1954)
1953-1954 Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers (TV series)
– The Cobalt Bomb (1954) … Rod Brown
– The Man Who Was Radioactive (1954) … Rod Brown
– The Metal Eaters (1954) … Rod Brown
– The Exploding Man (1954) … Rod Brown
– Bird Girl of Venus (1954) … Rod Brown
1954 Armstrong Circle Theatre (TV series)
– The Use of Dignity (1954) … John Robinson
1952 Hallmark Hall of Fame (TV series)
– Ten Thousand Words (1952)
– Faith Is a Nine-Letter Word (1952)
– The Bride's Teapot (1952)
1952 Short Short Dramas (TV series)
– A Portrait of General Garrity (1952)
1943 Corvette K-225
Lookout (uncredited)
1943 We've Never Been Licked
Adams (uncredited)
     
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