Posts Tagged ‘Cliff Robertson’

Actor Cliff Robertson dies at 88

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Legendary actor Cliff Robertson passed away on September 10th, one day after his 88th birthday. The Archive of American Television interviewed him about his television work in 2005. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On his proudest career achievement

I would have to say, survived. I have survived. I’m not sure I’m proud, but I recognize that the dear Lord has helped.  Whether it’s surviving these airplane mishaps that I didn’t get on that crashed or whatever, whatever it is, he’s given me in spite of it… Maybe the fact that, I did confront corruption at the highest level and that’s what my dear friend, Congressman Udall, put me up in the Congressional Record for standing against corporate corruption in Hollywood at a time when it was very costly. I didn’t work for three years.  It’s a little perverse, but I’m  kind of proud of that.  Because I knew when I did it, people said, including my former wife, it’s the end of your career.  And somehow or other we survived. So, I’m just very lucky. I’m lucky to survive the traffic on the way over here.

On how television has changed since he started his career

Since I first started?  It’s fast. It’s five second, two second, one second shots, it’s accelerated, it’s almost bizarre, it’s so fast.  And along with that speed sometimes you sacrifice quality. I mean, it’s arresting, but like a shallow meal, it leaves you. I think if we had the courage to take time, I’m telling you a story and you have to have the courage to take time to let the reader or the viewer get involved so that he or she are not in a hurry, they’re willing to cover the words or the thoughts or kind of digest what you’ve just seen so it stays with them –  like a very memorable meal as opposed to this quick snack.

On his advice to aspiring actors

Lee Strasberg said to me when I went out to do my first film, he said, “Cliff, they’ll promise you everything.  You come in with your own homework.  You come in with having analyzed and thought about your character. You come in prepared emotionally as well as technically and don’t let the hollow promises infatuate you because although they may mean well, most of the time they’ll promise you everything and give you little” I tell my young students, give them a buck and a half for every dollar they pay you and maybe even more, not necessarily out of respect or love for them, but out of respect for your own profession, your own talent, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t come in and just walk through it, even though you know you can do it and pick up the check, just out of respect for your profession and yourself, give them more than they give you.

On his mentors

As an actor?   I think Henry Fonda.  But I had Olivier, I mean, certainly Marlon in his early days, but he was kind of a child. He’d be the first to admit it. He was child playing with this fabulous talent and letting it slip through his fingers. Maybe that was the way he wanted it, but as a mentor, I think they lost them all with Olivier and Richardson, people of that ilk.  I have such high respect. Willy Loman’s wife had that line in that wonderful Arthur Miller play, Death of a Salesman, “attention must be paid, attention must be paid!  And I think our attention span in this business is so short. We’re worried about some little starlet temporarily on all the covers of all the magazines, that’s kind of shallow. Attention must be paid to those talents that are real, that are viable, that are lasting.

On how he would like to be remembered

Spell my name right.

About the interview

Cliff Robertson was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours in Los Angeles, CA. Robertson talked about his training at the Actors Studio and his early career on the New York stage. He talked about working in anthology series during the “live” television era of the 1950s.  He discussed his role as mentally disabled “Charlie Gordon” in both television ( The U.S. Steel Hour’s “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon”) and film (Charly, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor).  He spoke in great detail about his work with director John Frankenheimer on the Playhouse 90 show “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Robertson talked about being personally selected by President John F. Kennedy to play him in the feature film PT109.  He described his two appearances on the classic anthology series The Twilight Zone and spoke about series creator Rod Serling. Robertson discussed his blacklisting by the industry following “Hollywoodgate,” in which he accused Columbia Pictures head David Begelman of forging a check.  Robertson spoke about several of his television movie appearances as well as such television series as Rod Brown and the Rocket Rangers and Batman.  The interview was conducted by Stephen J. Abramson on March 1, 2005.