BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
On Monday, August 11, the world lost Robin Williams, one of the most versatile actors to ever grace the entertainment industry. His work, spanning nearly four decades, includes both comedic and dramatic performances that covered both movies and television.
Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 21, 1951 to Laurie McLaurin, a former model, and Robert Fitzgerald Williams, a senior executive for the Ford Motor Company in charge of the Midwest region.
After attending Juilliard for three years (1973 to 1976), Williams began his career in television on NBC’s “The Richard Pryor Show.” Afterwards, he was cast in a 1978 episode of the sitcom, “Happy Days,” where he played an alien named Mork. His work as that character gained much popularity, which eventually led to the spin-off sitcom, “Mork and Mindy,” which aired from 1978 to 1982. He also had guests spots on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” Throughout his work in television, he received two Emmy awards and nine other nominations.
Williams began his film career in 1977 with the comedy, “Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses?” After starring in films such as “Moscow on the Hudson” and “The World According to Garp,” he appeared in “Good Morning, Vietnam,” which earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Over the course of his radiant career, Williams received two other Best Actor nominations for “The Fisher King” and “Dead Poets Society,” and won Best Supporting Actor for his role as a compassionate therapist in “Good Will Hunting.”
His role in “Dead Poets Society” is a truly inspiring performance, and is one of his finest. Williams brought his natural charm and charisma to a role that needed it in abundance, with his character being an English teacher at an all-boys prep school who, with his fun and unconventional teaching methods, encourages his students to seize the day and be who they want to be.
Although he was able to accomplish serious roles as easily as comedic ones, it’s still a wonder how dramatic and deeply disturbing a performance he was able to bring to the psychological thriller, “One Hour Photo,” where he played a photo developer who becomes obsessed with a family who frequents the department store where he works. It’s one of the best testaments to his talent as an actor because it shows how easily he was able to adapt to whatever material he was given.
As far as his comedic roles go, he brought smiles to our faces with his appearance as radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in “Good Morning, Vietnam,” as a voice actor disguised as a nanny in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” as Dr. Hunter Adams in “Patch Adams,” and as Theodore Roosevelt in the “Night at the Museum” films, with the third set for release this December, which will also be one of his last movies.
Besides his live-action films, one other movie he will surely be remembered for is “Aladdin,” where he voiced the Genie. In what is a hugely entertaining and memorable character, Williams made the Genie the funniest part of the movie.
Williams is survived by his wife, Susan Schneider, and his three children, Zachary Pym, Zelda Rae and Cody Alan.