by Julian Spivey
I think everybody loved Robin Williams. At least that’s what I’m seeing from all of the outpouring of sadness and tributes following the breaking news of the Oscar-winning actor’s death from suicide yesterday (August 11). It’s incredibly remarkable, especially in this day and age, for somebody to be nearly universally beloved. That just shows the kind of talent and man that Williams was.
From his very beginnings in Hollywood as alien Mork from Ork on the ABC sitcom “Mork & Mindy,” Williams has brought the world to tears numerous times through laughter, and more than once through his terrific dramatic acting in more serious fare like “Dead Poets Society” and “Good Will Hunting,” the film that won him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1998.
Williams would also be nominated three times for the Best Actor Oscar, win four Golden Globes, two Emmys, two Screen Actors Guild awards and five Grammy awards for his comedy albums.
While Williams is no doubt one of the greatest and most successful stand-up comedians of all-time what he will likely be most remembered and known for is his terrific output of films from the early ‘80s throughout the ‘90s.
Films like “Dead Poets Society,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Aladdin,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Patch Adams” and countless others have no doubt left an indelible mark on filmgoers over the years, as represented by the frequency of their mentions in the hours following Williams’ death. At one point about two hours after news of his tragic passing broke every single trending topic on Twitter was either a title of a film he was in or related to the actor/comedian in some way.
My personal favorite Williams’ performance is that of Adrian Cronauer, a disc jockey for the Armed Forces Radio Service during the Vietnam War. The performance is the first that earned Williams an Academy Award nomination and is the absolute perfect mixture of comedic and dramatic acting that few but Williams could muster. The character’s manic rebelliousness, which describes Williams’ himself, just drew me in and spoke to me and numerous others.
Another thing that I always loved about Williams was his frequent appearances on late night television shows like “Late Show with David Letterman” were he would absolutely take over an interview with his rapid-fire manic improvisations and impersonations. In fact, Williams might have been the funniest guest on late night television, but that’s not really saying a whole lot as he might have been the funniest man in Hollywood.
I hate that Williams didn’t find much success after the dawn of the new millennium, being forced into family-type movies and other vehicles that were frankly beneath him. I’d hoped that he’d find a new start in the recent CBS sitcom “The Crazy Ones,” which was good, but unfortunately seen by few leading to its cancellation this past spring. Williams’ performances and mix of comedy/drama proved that he could’ve done anything and it’s a surprise to me that he didn’t/couldn’t find roles to suit this unique talent. His health issues like emergency open heart surgery in 2009 could’ve played a part in this.
The way that Williams died in taking his life after reportedly dealing with terrible depression is one that is hard for many of us fans to digest. Not necessarily because it’s hard to imagine a celebrity wanting to end his life, but because it’s hard for us to deal with the thought that a man who did nothing in his life but provide us with absolute joy could have felt so much pain and torment.
As previously mentioned, Williams was one of the few actors who could just as easily leave you in tears from his comedy as he did his dramatic acting. Sadly, once again he leaves us in tears, but this time they aren’t tears brought on by his timeless art, but his untimely, tragic death.
We will always remember Williams for the crazy amounts of joy he gave us and I’d like to end with a fantastic quote from this genius of a man: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”