EXPIRED: 09/10/11 – Cliff Robertson, 88, struggled since the day he was born. His parents divorced when he was one year old, and his mother died a year later. His grandmother raised him when his father dropped out of the picture. It was tough.
His early career was also tough. After years studying at the Actors Studio in NYC, he made it to Broadway and then to Hollywood. But the movies he was cast in were embarrassments like “Autumn Leaves,” “Gidget” and “Sunday in New York.” Then he started to make war pictures like “PT 109” in which he played a pre-presidential JFK, and his star began to shine a bit more.
After a stint as the villain Shame on the TV show “Batman,” Robertson won an Oscar for the movie “Charly,” in which he played the title character, a mentally challenged bakery worker who becomes crazy intelligent with the help of experimental drugs. His life changes dramatically until the drugs wear off.
He was in high demand back then – with hits like “Three Days of the Condor” and many TV appearances – until he outed his boss. In 1977, Robertson, called out David Begelman, the president of Columbia Pictures, for forging his name to a $10,000 studio check. Eventually Begelman was accused of embezzling more than $60,000 from Columbia. But in three years he was running MGM, and Robertson was basically blacklisted.
In 1983, he returned to TV on “Falcon Crest” in the 1983-84 season but is probably best known to younger readers as Spiderman’s uncle in the recent “Spider-Man” trilogy.
After failing to get the backing for a sequel to “Charly,” Robertson had few options left and retired to upstate New York. He died the day after his 88th birthday.