American movie actor Cliff Robertson, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a mentally disabled janitor in the 1968 movie “Charly,” died Saturday, a day after his 88th birthday.
Robertson’s long career began in the mid-1950s and continued into the 21st century. His later roles included kindly Uncle Ben in the Spider Man movies.
In 1963, Robertson starred as Lieutenant John F. Kennedy in the naval war film “PT 109” about the military days of the young man who would become a U. S. president.
Robertson created a string of impressive performances in television and on Broadway, but always saw his stage roles played in films by bigger names. His TV performances in “Days of Wine and Roses” and “The Hustler,” for example, became movies starring Jack Lemmon and Paul Newman.
Robertson was determined that would not happen with his role in the TV story “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon.” He bought the movie rights, changing the movie title to “Charly.” Robertson won an Oscar for his portrayal of the mentally disabled man who is transformed into a genius in an experiment, only to regress to his former self.
Robertson is also remembered for exposing powerful Columbia Studios chief David Begelman, who had forged the actor’s name on a $10,000 check in the late 1970s. The ensuing scandal saw Robertson essentially blacklisted in the film industry until the early 1980s.
Robertson’s second wife was actress and heiress Dina Merrill, daughter of financier E.F. Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the world’s richest women.