Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Late Great Cliff Robertson

He was Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers, Charlie Gordon, and Uncle Ben Parker. He won both an Oscar and an Emmy. Cliff Robertson was a versatile actor with a long career in film, on television, and the stage. He died today, 10 September 2011, the day after his 88th birthday.

Clifford Robertson was born in Los Angeles, California on 9 September 1923. He attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. For a time he worked as a journalist.

Cliff Robertson made his film debut in 1943 in We've Never Been Licked and appeared the same year in Corvette K-225. He made his television debut in an episode of Short Short Dramas. He played the lead in the Saturday morning space opera Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers. Throughout the Fifties he appeared in such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, Kraft Theatre, Wagon Train, Westinghouse Desliu Playhouse, Playhouse 90, The Dick Powell Theatre, The United States Steel Hour, and The Untouchables. He appeared in such films as Picnic (1956), Autumn Leaves (1956), The Girl Most Likely  (1958), The Naked and The Dead (1958), and Gidget (1959).  On Broadway he appeared in the productions Late Love, Orpheus Descending, and The Wisteria Trees.

In the Sixties he appeared in such films as All in a Night's Work (1961), The Big Show (1961), Underworld U.S.A. (1961), My Six Lives (1962), The Interns (1962), PT 109 (1963, in which he played Lt. John F. Kennedy), Sunday in New York (1963), The Best Man (1964), Masquerade (1965), The Honey Pot (1967), The Devil's Bridgade (1967), and Charly (1968--for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor). On television he appeared in the recurring role of the villain Shame on Batman. He also appeared in the shows Bus Stop, Ben Casey, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Suspense, The Red Skelton Hour, Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre, and Bracken's World.

In the Seventies Mr. Robertson appeared in such films as J. W. Coop (1971), The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972), Man on a Swing (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975), Midway (1976), and The Pilot (1980). He appeared on television in the mini-series Washington Behind Closed Doors. In the Eighties Cliff Robertson appeared in such films as Star 80 (1983), Class (1983), Brainstorm (1983), Shaker Run (1986), and Malone (1987). On television he was a regular on Falcon Crest. From the Nineties into the Naughts he appeared in such films as Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (1991), Wind (1992), Renaissance Man (1994), Escape From LA (1996), Spider-Man (2002), and Riding the Bullet (2004). He appeared on television on The Outer Limits.

Cliff Robertson was a versatile actor whom I believe was always underrated. While his name may not be as recognisable as some of his contemporaries, I think there can be no argument that he was a great actor capable of playing nearly any role set before him. This can be seen in the role for which he won an Oscar, that of Charlie Gordon in Charly. The movie deals with a mentally challenged man who undergoes treatment which transforms him into a genius. Mr. Robertson was convincing as both the sweet, but mentally challenged Charlie and as the not so sweet, genius version of Charlie. Despite the leap in intelligence, it was easy to believe it was the same character because of Mr. Robertson's performance. Indeed, throughout his career he played a number of different roles, from surfer dude The Big Kahuna in Gidget to Cole Younger in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid to Ben Parker in the Spider-Man movies. Cliff Robertson played a wide array of characters and was convincing every time. Few actors had his range.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Another Reminder for the Margaret Lockwood Blogathon

This is just another reminder that I am hosting a blogathon on 15 September 2011 in honour of Margaret Lockwood's 95th birthday. If you want to take part, just leave me a comment on this blog or email me. Your blog post on Maggie can be anything: a post on some particular aspect of her career; a post on a particular movie; or you can simply do a blog of nothing but pictures. Anyhow, for those who are taking part, here is a banner you can use on your blog posts

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why Rory Williams is One of My Favourite Doctor Who Companions

When many people name their favourites of The Doctor's companions from Doctor Who, one might hear "Sarah Jane Smith," "Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart," or the more recent "Rose Tyler." All three of these number among my favourites of The Doctor's companions (Rose is my favourite, Sarah Jane a very close number two), but I would also have to include one of The Doctor's current companions, Rory Williams, in my list of favourites. In fact, while I like Amy Pond, given a choice between Amy staying with The Doctor and Rory staying with The Doctor, Amy would be the one to leave.

There is a simple reason for me, and I suspect most other men, to like Rory. The simple fact is that of The Doctor's many companions, he is probably the most like the average guy. Rory is clumsy. He can be insecure. He can be jealous of Amy's relationship with The Doctor. And yet Rory is not a total loser, just as a the average guy is not necessarily a total  loser. When Rory was introduced in the episode "The Eleventh Hour" as Amy's "sort of boyfriend," he was rightfully suspicious about the coma patients in the hospital at which he worked. He later helped Amy evacuate the hospital and lent The Doctor his cell phone with which The Doctor used to create a computer virus to attract the jailers of the escaped Prisoner Zero, the villain of the episode.

Of course, in "The Eleventh Hour," as in much of the series, Rory is a bit henpecked by Amy. This is hardly a sign that he lacks backbone, however, as Rory is a fairly brave individual. In "The Vampires of Venice" he actually challenged the Saturnynian Francesco in order to defend Amy. In "Amy's Choice" he actually stepped between Amy and a creature (in the form of an old lady) that spewed some sort of acidic venom. One might attribute these acts of bravery to Rory simply defending the woman he loves, but as the series progressed it seems Rory was capable of courage when it came to defending others as well. In "Cold Blood" Rory blocked a shot meant for The Doctor, an act which resulted not only in his death, but in being erased from existence as well.

This brings us to another point about Rory: short of The Doctor himself, I think he has died more times than any character on Doctor Who. Rory would be killed temporarily, or at least incapacitated, in at least six episodes ("Amy's Choice," "Cold Blood," "The Big Bang," "Day of the Moon," "The Curse of the Black Spot," and "The Doctor's Wife"). Rory does not remain dead, however, as he always comes back. After so many deaths one would think Rory would divorce Amy and abandon The Doctor, but instead he continues to adventure with them. Rory would then seem to be unwavering and unfaltering, almost unstoppable. Indeed, when Amy was preserved within the Pandorica (a prison box made to hold The Doctor), Rory (recreated as an Auton duplicate) guarded the box for 2000 years. This is not only a mark of Rory's perseverance, but also of just how much he loves Amy.

While Rory Williams has been played for comic relief quite often, then, he is hardly a buffoon or a coward. Indeed, Rory stands in sharp contrast to Rose Tyler's former boyfriend, Mickey Smith. While Mickey would improve throughout the run of Doctor Who, when we first meet him in "Rose" he was not exactly brave. In fact, at one point, Mickey even clung to Rose for protection. It is impossible seeing Rory clinging to Amy for protection. Indeed, the man literally took a blow for The Doctor.

To sum things up, Rory is both what the average guy really is and what the average guy wants to be. Like Rory most of us are hardly perfect. We can be clumsy. We can be jealous. We can be insecure. At the same time, however, Rory has qualities that the average guy really would like to have. He is brave. He is loyal. He is persistent. In some respects Rory could even be considered more heroic than The Doctor. The Doctor is over 900 years old and has a wealth of knowledge and advanced technology which he can fall back on.  Often all Rory has are his wits, his courage, and sheer determination. I suspect that there is a reason why The Doctor chose Rory as a companion beyond the fact that he was Amy's boyfriend. Quite simply, The Doctor saw in Rory the makings of a hero.