Cliff Robertson

Actor, Director, TV spokesman
As a child growing up in an idyllic California coastal town in the years before the Great Depression, Cliff Robertson was raised to value hard work and perseverance. He saw action in the South Pacific during World War ... Read more »
Born: 09/09/1923 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Filmography

Actor (115)

Spider-Man 3 2007 (Movie)

Ben Parker (Actor)

Spider-Man 2 2004 (Movie)

Uncle Ben Parker (Actor)

Stephen King's Riding the Bullet 2004 (Movie)

Farmer (Actor)

13th Child - Legend of the Jersey Devil, Volume 1 2002 (Movie)

Mr. Shroud (Actor)

Spider-Man 2002 (Movie)

Uncle Ben Parker (Actor)

Hollywood's Magic Night 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Family Tree 2000 (Movie)

Larry (Actor)

Sandra Dee 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Fosse: The E! True Hollywood Story 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Lana Turner: Hollywood's Screen Siren 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

Mach 2 1999 (Movie)

Vice President Pike (Actor)

Waiting For Sunset 1999 (Movie)

Ted Roth (Actor)

William Holden: An Untamed Spirit 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Actor

25th International Emmy Awards 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

Danger in the Jet Stream 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Narrator

The 70th Annual Academy Awards 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

The GI Bill: The Law That Changed America 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Narrator

Voices of Scotland 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Narrator

JFK: A Personal Story 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Race 1997 (Movie)

Jack Durman (Actor)

John Carpenter's Escape From L.A. 1996 (Movie)

President (Actor)

Judith Kranz's Dazzle 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Narrator

The Story of the Gun 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Narrator

American Cinema 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Narrator

Earthwinds 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Narrator

Screen Actors Guild Awards 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

Wings as Eagles 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Narrator

Renaissance Man 1994 (Movie)

Colonel James (Actor)

First Flights 1991 - 1993 (TV Show)

Narrator

Lincoln 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Voice

Wind 1992 (Movie)

Morgan Weld (Actor)

Life and Death of a Dynasty 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Narrator

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken 1991 (Movie)

Doctor Carver (Actor)

Dead Reckoning 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Falcon Crest 1981 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

William Holden: The Golden Boy 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Ghosts of '87 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

Take Charge! 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

Galapagos: My Fragile World 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Narrator

Malone 1987 (Movie)

Delaney (Actor)

An All-Star Party For "Dutch" Reagan 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Shaker Run 1985 (Movie)

Judd Pierson (Actor)

The Key to Rebecca 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

Brainstorm 1983 (Movie)

Alex Terson (Actor)

Class 1983 (Movie)

Mr Burroughs (Actor)

Star 80 1983 (Movie)

Hugh Hefner (Actor)

Two of a Kind 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

Dominique 1979 (Movie)

David Ballard (Actor)

Overboard 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)

Actor

The Pilot 1978 (Movie)

(Actor)

Fraternity Row 1976 (Movie)

(Actor)

Midway 1976 (Movie)

Commander Carl Jessop (Actor)

Obsession 1976 (Movie)

Michael Courtland (Actor)

Shoot 1976 (Movie)

Major Rex Jeanette (Actor)

My Father's House 1974 - 1975 (TV Show)

Actor

Out of Season 1975 (Movie)

Joe (Actor)

Three Days of the Condor 1975 (Movie)

Higgins (Actor)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

Man on a Swing 1974 (Movie)

Police Chief Tucker (Actor)

Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies 1972 (Movie)

Eli (Actor)

J.W. Coop 1972 (Movie)

J W Coop (Actor)

The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid 1972 (Movie)

Cole Younger (Actor)

Too Late the Hero 1970 (Movie)

Lieutenant Lawson (Actor)

Charly 1968 (Movie)

Charly Gordon (Actor)

The Devil's Brigade 1968 (Movie)

Major Alan Crown (Actor)

The Honey Pot 1966 (Movie)

William McFly (Actor)

Masquerade 1965 (Movie)

David Frazzer (Actor)

The Outer Limits 1963 - 1965 (TV Show)

Actor

633 Squadron 1964 (Movie)

Wing Cmdr Roy Grant (Actor)

Love Has Many Faces 1964 (Movie)

Pete Jordon (Actor)

Up From the Beach 1964 (Movie)

Sgt Edward Baxter (Actor)

Alcoa Premiere 1961 - 1963 (TV Show)

Actor

PT109 1963 (Movie)

Lieutenant John F Kennedy (Actor)

The Best Man 1963 (Movie)

Joe Cantwell (Actor)

The United States Steel Hour 1953 - 1963 (TV Show)

Performer

The Untouchables 1959 - 1963 (TV Show)

Actor

My Six Loves 1962 (Movie)

Rev Jim Larkin (Actor)

Sunday in New York 1962 (Movie)

Adam Tyler (Actor)

The Big Show 1961 (Movie)

Josef Everard (Actor)

The Interns 1961 (Movie)

Dr John Paul Otis (Actor)

Underworld, U.S.A. 1961 (Movie)

Tolly Devlin (Actor)

Alcoa/Goodyear Theater 1958 - 1960 (TV Show)

Actor

All in a Night's Work 1960 (Movie)

Warren Kingsley Jr (Actor)

Playhouse 90 1956 - 1960 (TV Show)

Actor

Battle of the Coral Sea 1958 (Movie)

Lieutenant Commander Jeff Conway (Actor)

Gidget 1958 (Movie)

Kahoona (Actor)

Girl Most Likely 1958 (Movie)

Pete (Actor)

The Naked and the Dead 1958 (Movie)

Lieutenant Heam (Actor)

Autumn Leaves 1956 (Movie)

Burt Hanson (Actor)

Montgomery's Summer Stock 1951 - 1956 (TV Show)

Actor

Picnic 1956 (Movie)

Alan (Actor)

Assignment Berlin (TV Show)

Actor

Batman (TV Show)

Actor

Kraft Television Theater (TV Show)

Actor

Return to Earth (TV Show)

Actor

Sonja Henie: Queen of Ice (TV Show)

Narrator

The American Revolution (TV Show)

Voice

The Man Without a Country (TV Show)

Actor

The Sunshine Patriot (TV Show)

Actor

The Twilight Zone (TV Show)

Actor

Wagon Train (TV Show)

Actor
Writer (2)

J.W. Coop 1972 (Movie)

(Screenplay)
Director (2)

The Pilot 1978 (Movie)

(Director)

J.W. Coop 1972 (Movie)

(Director)
Music (1)

Girl Most Likely 1958 (Movie)

("We Gotta Keep Up With the Joneses") (Song Performer)
Producer (1)

J.W. Coop 1972 (Movie)

(Producer)

Biography

As a child growing up in an idyllic California coastal town in the years before the Great Depression, Cliff Robertson was raised to value hard work and perseverance. He saw action in the South Pacific during World War II and worked as a newspaperman before heading to New York City to make a name for himself as an actor. Classes with the Actor's Studio led to his Broadway debut and a busy schedule of work on stage, on television and in such feature films as "PT 109" (1962) and "The Best Man" (1963). An Academy Award winner for playing the title role in "Charly" (1969), Robertson segued smoothly from star roles to character parts in the mid-Seventies but his career was derailed by the 1977 "Hollywoodgate" scandal. After exposing the embezzlement of more than half a million dollars by the head of Columbia Pictures, the actor found himself blacklisted in the industry. Robertson reemerged in a run of high profile films in the early Eighties, reestablishing himself as a venerable American actor, among the last of a dying breed, and a true survivor.

Born in La Jolla, CA on Sept. 9, 1925, Clifford Parker Robinson III was the only son of Audrey Willingham and Clifford Parker Robertson, II, heir to a ranching dynasty. After the divorce of his parents and his mother's death from the onset of peritonitis due to a ruptured appendix six months later, Robertson was taken in by his maternal grandmother Eleanor Sawyer Willingham, a divorceé who adopted the boy and raised him in partnership with an uncle. Robertson's charming but shiftless father would return throughout his childhood to dip into his son's trust fund. To keep the boy from inheriting his father's spendthrift tendencies, Robertson's Calvinist grandmother tutored him in the importance of hard work, self-reliance and perseverance. At the age of nine, he lied about his age to secure a job delivering newspapers. He made extra money trapping lobsters off the coast of California and traded the scutwork of cleaning airplanes and engine parts at Speer Airport in San Diego for flying lessons, riding his bicycle the 13 miles from La Jolla six times a week.

Inspired by the writings of adventurer Richard Halliburton, Robertson joined the Maritime Service at age 15. He saw action during World War II in the South Pacific, North Atlantic and Mediterranean theatres. In peacetime, he studied journalism at Antioch College in Ohio and wrote for The Springfield Daily News. Persuaded that he might make a better living writing for the theatre, Robertson headed for New York City. His first jobs in Manhattan included working for a detective agency and waiting tables and parking cars at the Stork Club. He joined a summer stock company to learn the mechanics of live performance and played parts in repertory. While acting in small roles on live television, Robertson heard about The Actor's Studio, an offshoot of The Group Theatre run out of an abandoned church on the West Side. As a young cadet at Brown Military Academy in Pacific Beach, Robertson had escaped the monotony of drilling by volunteering for campus theatricals; his summer stock apprenticeship had never been more than a means to an end of becoming a playwright. It was during his time with the Actor's Studio that Robertson began to seriously entertain the notion of making a career of acting.

Between 1953 and 1954, Robertson starred in the CBS science fiction series "Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers," for which he pocketed $175 a week. Taping the series by day, he made his Broadway debut at night, appearing opposite Elizabeth Montgomery in the Rosemary Casey comedy "Late Love." In 1955, he made his proper film debut in "Picnic," Joshua Logan's adaptation of the William Inge play, which had been a hit on Broadway two years earlier. In Robert Aldrich's "Autumn Leaves" (1956), Robertson shed his collegiate image to play Joan Crawford's younger, psychotic lover and a battle-hardened army officer in Raoul Walsh's "The Naked and the Dead" (1958), based on the novel by Norman Mailer. He received unanimous praise as the alcoholic antihero of "The Days of Wine and Roses," which John Frankenheimer staged live for "Playhouse 90" (CBS, 1956-1961), but lost the part in Blake Edwards' 1962 film adaptation to Jack Lemmon. Able to transition smoothly between pink-cheeked charm and dead-eyed ferality, the actor segued easily between appearances as an aimless surf bum in Paul Wendkos' "Gidget" (1959) and a merciless contract killer in Sam Fuller's "Underworld USA" (1961).

To play WWII Navy lieutenant John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the fact-based "PT 109" (1962), Robertson was approved by JFK himself, then the 35th President of the United States. Robertson did a dramatic about-face to play an unscrupulous presidential candidate in "The Best Man" (1963), adapted by Gore Vidal from the 1960 political novel by Garson Kanin. Robertson enjoyed many high-profile film assignments throughout the Sixties but the jewel in his career crown was the title role in "Charly" (1968), as a mentally handicapped adult whose IQ is boosted to the level of genius by radical neurosurgery. Robertson had won an Emmy for playing the role in 1961, when the Daniel Keyes source novel Flowers for Algernon was dramatized as an episode of "The U.S. Steel Hour" (ABC, 1953-1963) by director John Frankenheimer, and received an Academy Award for his work in "Charly." In 1971, Robertson made his feature film directorial debut with "J.W. Coop," casting himself in the role of an ex-convict who rehabilitates himself as a rodeo rider.

A demanding and at times difficult actor, Robertson made bold and unusual choices in his film roles through the Seventies. He played Wild West outlaw Cole Younger to Robert Duvall's Jesse James in Philip Kaufman's revisionist Western "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" (1972), and was a small town police chief who reluctantly partners with a psychic to solve a murder case in Frank Perry's fact-based "Man on a Swing" (1974). In Sydney Pollack's "Three Days of the Condor" (1975), the actor was charmingly persuasive as a sinister CIA insider bedeviling Robert Redford's outside man. Traveling to Canada for Harvey Hart's "Shoot" (1976), Robertson joined Ernest Borgnine and Henry Silva in a downbeat tale of a rivalry between weekend hunters that escalates into full scale warfare. For Brian De Palma, Robertson headlined the Hitchcockian "Obsession" (1976) and on the small screen he played NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the ABC telefilm "Back to Earth" (1976), which detailed the nervous breakdown and eventual recovery of the second man to walk on the moon.

In 1977, Robertson became the leading man in a Hollywood scandal after exposing Columbia Pictures studio head David Begelman's role in an embezzlement scam. Although the studio board of directors pressured Robertson to remain silent on the subject of the theft of what amounted to $650,000, the actor spoke his mind about "Hollywoodgate" in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal and soon found himself blacklisted within the industry. He worked infrequently for the next two years, during which he directed live theatre and developed what would be his second feature as a director, "The Pilot" (1980), adapted from the novel by Robert P. Davis. Robertson made a comeback in the early Eighties, as Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner in Bob Fosse's "Star 80" (1983) and as a principled research scientist in Douglas Trumbull's "Brainstorm" (1983), a sci-fi extravaganza co-starring Natalie Wood, who died tragically during filming.

After a two-year run on the primetime soap opera "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) and a 10-year stint as the national TV spokesman for AT&T, Robertson pushed past retirement age with a string of assignments in films with budgets high and low, made for television and the cinema. He played pioneer auto maker Henry Ford in "Ford: The Man and the Machine" (1987) and was the President of the United States in John Carpenter's satiric "Escape from L.A." (1996), a belated sequel to "Escape from New York" (1979). Later, Robertson loaned his estimable gravitas to Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" (2002) and its two sequels as web-slinging superhero Peter Parker's homily-prone Uncle Ben. The actor passed away one day after his 88nd birthday on Sept. 10, 2011 in Long Island, NY.

Relationships

Clifford Parker Robertson II

Father

Audrey Robertson

Mother

Cynthia Lemmon

Wife
formerly married to Jack Lemmon married c. 1957-1959

Dina Merrill

Wife
second wife married December 21, 1966 divorced

Heather Robertson

Daughter
Cancer

EDUCATION

Antioch College

Ohio

Milestones

2007

Made his third film appearance as Uncle Ben in "Spider-Man 3"

2004

Reprised role of Uncle Ben in "Spider-Man 2"

2002

Cast as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben in "Spider-Man," directed by Sam Raimi

1991

Returned to feature film-actnig with a role in "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken"

1990

Hosted a series of six syndicated TV documentary specials titled "Medal of Honor: True Stories of America's Greatest War Heroes"

1990

Acted in the two-character stage play "Love Letters" in both New York (opposite Elaine Stritch) and Michael Learned (in San Francisco)

1983

Played recurring role of Michael Ransom on the nighttime CBS soap opera "Falcon Crest"

1983

Returned to features with roles in "Class", "Star 80" and "Brainstorm"

1981

Wrote and directed the stage play "The V.I.P.s"

1979

Directed his second feature film "The Pilot," in which he also starred

1977

Became involved in "Hollywoodgate" scandal when he accused Columbia Pictures president David Begelman of forging his name to a $10,000 check; Robertson later claimed that he was subsequently unofficially blacklisted in the entertainment industry

1975

Began playing occasional second leads or prominent supporting roles in films such as "Three Days of the Condor" opposite Robert Redford

1970

Made feature producing, directing and writing debut in "J.W. Coop", in which he also starred in the title role

1968

Starred in the NBC TV-movie "The Sunshine Patriot"

1966

Made recurring appearance as the dastardly cowboy Shame, one of many 'special guest villains' who appeared on ABC's cult TV series "Batman"; in his last appearances on the show, his then-wife Dina Merrill also guest-starred as Calamity Jan

1963

Chosen by President John F. Kennedy Jr. to portray him during his wartime years in the biopic "PT 109"

1963

Starred in the pilot episode of the cult science-fiction anthology series "The Outer Limits"; episode entitled "The Galaxy Being"

1959

Received top billing for the first time in "The Battle of the Coral Sea"

1956

Landed first romantic lead in "Autumn Leaves" opposite top-billed Joan Crawford

1956

Made feature film debut in a prominent supporting role in "Picnic", based on William Inge's stage play

1953

Played Ranger Rod Brown on the CBS science-fiction series "Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers"

Made his earliest TV appearances in the early 50s on such dramatic anthology series as "Short, Short Drama" and "Montgomery's Summer Stock"

Worked for a short time as a journalist

Began providing voice-overs and making appearances to a large number of TV commercials for AT&T

Gained acting experience on the stage (including Broadway) in the early 50s; made appearances in "Mister Roberts", "The Wisteria Tree" and "Orpheus Descending", among others

Bonus Trivia

.

Robertson was a lifelong aviation enthusiast who learned to fly at 14. He was a member of the Soaring Society of America and reportedly owned as many as seven airplanes.

.

The actor served to the rank of lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve.

.

Robertson was appointed to the board of directors of the New York chapter of the Screen Actors Guild in 1980.

.

Robertson was a council member of the Writers Guild of America from 1984 to 1986.

.

Robertson served as honorary chairman of the American Cancer Society and also did charity work for the United Way, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Mental Health Association, the End Hunger Network, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

.

Robertson received honorary doctorates of fine arts from Bradford College (1981), MacMurray College (1986), and Susquehanna University (1988).

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