One of Hollywood’s most popular television and film stars died Saturday, Sept. 10, just one day after his 88th birthday, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Cliff Robertson died of natural causes at Stony Brook University Medical Center on New York’s Long Island. Funeral services are scheduled for Friday in East Hampton, N.Y., with memorial services planned to take place later in New York City and Los Angeles, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Robertson won the best actor Oscar in 1969 for his performance in "Charly," a film he developed as a feature after playing the role in a television production of the project — called "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon" — on the “United States Steel Hour” in 1961.
His Emmy was for a 1966 episode of the drama anthology "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre." It was called "The Game" and was directed by Sydney Pollack.
We here at TVWeek could not find a clip of that show, but one of Robertson’s best performances, which was on TV in 1958, can still be seen. We’re referring to the original TV version of "Days of Wine and Roses," the classic J.P. Miller drama that was seen live on "Playhouse 90" on Oct. 2, 1958.
Jack Gould, then the TV critic at The New York Times, wrote in the paper the next day, "It was a brilliant and compelling work. Piper Laurie and Cliff Robertson, portraying the attractive young couple who were ultimately driven apart by the bottle, added two memorable portraits …"
The movie version, made in 1962, was nominated for five Oscars, including the leads, Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.
We think the Piper Laurie/Cliff Robertson version is better. You can see a brief clip from the Robertson version on YouTube if you click here. But the entire show is available on a DVD, still in print and available to purchase. The DVD is called "The Golden Age of TV" and is part of the Criterion Collection. (That same DVD contains a number of other must-see live TV dramas, including Rod Serling’s "Patterns," Paddy Chayefsky’ "Marty" and Serling’s "Requiem for a Heavyweight.")
Another of Robertson’s most memorable parts was playing the young John F. Kennedy in the 1963 film of the president’s Naval career, "PT 109." Reportedly, President Kennedy had a hand in picking Robertson for the role.
Robertson is also well known as the guy who blew the whistle on Columbia Pictures President David Begelman in a check-forging and embezzlement scandal that rocked Hollywood in the 1970s. Robertson was threatened with being blackballed, but he brought in the FBI nonetheless, and Begelman was found guilty of illegal activities.
That incident was turned into a huge best-selling non-fiction book in 1982 — it’s still a compelling page-turner — by reporter David McClintick entitled "Indecent Exposure: A True Story of Hollywood and Wall Street."
Robertson did suffer a career drought after that scandal, but eventually he returned to work, including his role on the primetime soap "Falcon Crest," along with work as the voice of AT&T commercials.
In recent years he appeared as Ben Parker in the “Spider-Man” movies.