Cliff Robertson Biography


Birthday: September 9, 1923 (Virgo)

Born In: La Jolla

Cliff Robertson was an Academy Award winning American actor with a career spanning five decades. Best known for his role in the movie ‘Charly’, as a mentally disabled floor sweeper, he was among the most respected and versatile character actors of his generation. Even though born into a wealthy family, the actor’s early years were fraught with difficulties. His parents divorced when he was still a baby and his mother died of an illness a year later. Raised by his grandmother, he graduated from La Jolla High School and proceeded to serve in the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II. After the war, he attended college for a short while before embarking on a career as a journalist. But destiny had other plans for him and soon he found himself performing on the Broadway. Well-built with rugged good-looks, he easily gained attention as an actor and soon forayed into films as well. His intense onscreen performances gained him a reputation as a character actor and he enjoyed success on the big screen as well. In the 1970s he was briefly blacklisted in Hollywood following a scandal involving David Begelman, the president of Columbia Pictures. However, after a few years he returned to Hollywood and resumed his successful career.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Clifford Parker Robertson III, Clifford Parker

Died At Age: 88


Spouse/Ex-: Cynthia Stone, Dina Merrill

father: Clifford Parker Robertson Jr.

mother: Audrey Willingham

children: Heather Robertson, Stephanie Robertson

Actors American Men

Died on: September 10, 2011

place of death: Stony Brook

U.S. State: California

More Facts

education: Antioch College, La Jolla High School

Childhood & Early Life
Clifford Parker Robertson III was born on September 9, 1923, in La Jolla, California, U.S. to Clifford Parker Robertson, Jr. and his first wife, the former Audrey Olga Willingham. His father hailed from a wealthy family and was the heir to a small fortune.
His parents divorced when Cliff was just a year old. The little boy lost his mother to an illness after a year and was raised by his maternal grandmother. His father rarely visited him.
He went to the La Jolla High School from where he graduated in 1941. Interested in acting from a young age, he actively participated in the school plays. The World War II was going on at the time of his graduation and he served in the U.S. Merchant Marine for a while.
After his army stint he attended Antioch College (Ohio) but did not complete his degree. He dropped out to work as a journalist. The dean of the college, however, encouraged him to focus on acting.
Motivated by the dean’s support, the young man moved to New York, where he studied at the Actors Studio.
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Good-looking and talented, he began appearing in stage productions beginning with a role in ‘Three Men on a Horse.’ He made his Broadway debut in the play ‘Late Love’ in 1953. He gained attention for his poignant performances which soon led him to television and films.
He found a starring role in the television space opera ‘Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers’ (1953–1954) and made his film debut in the romantic drama ‘Picnic’ (1955) which was followed by ‘Autumn Leaves’ in 1956.
Over the following years he continued being active on television while exploring film roles as well. In 1958, Robertson portrayed Joe Clay in the television drama ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ and the film ‘The Naked and the Dead.’
The 1960s saw him play major roles in the films ‘Wild River’ (1960), ‘Underworld USA’ (1961), ‘The Interns’ (1962), ‘Sunday in New York’ (1963), ‘633 Squadron’ (1964), and ‘Charly’ (1968). His most notable television role of the decade was his lead role in the drama ‘The Game’ (1965).
He began the 1970s with films like ‘Too Late the Hero’ (1970) followed by ‘Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies’ (1973), ‘Three Days of the Condor’ (1975), and ‘Washington: Behind Closed Doors’ (1977).
In 1977, Cliff Robertson became involved in a high profile controversy when he learned of a forgery carried out by Columbia Pictures head David Begelman whom he accused of having forged his name on a $10,000 studio check. He was advised by many in the film fraternity to not report it, but he went on to lodge a complaint against Begelman who was fined $5,000 and given three years’ probation.
The controversy however led to Robertson being blacklisted by Hollywood producers for a few years. But the actor was able to successfully resume his career in the 1980s and appeared in movies such as ‘Class’ (1983), ‘Star 80’ (1983), and ‘Malone’ (1987). He portrayed Henry Ford in ‘Ford: The Man and the Machine’, also in 1987.
He remained active as a character actor till the last decade of his life. One of his final well-known roles was as Uncle Ben in the Spider-Man film trilogy from 2002 to 2007.
Major Works
He played an intellectually disabled man who miraculously becomes brilliant in the film ‘Charly’ which is regarded as his finest performance. The film was a critical as well as commercial success which won Robertson an Academy Award.
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He portrayed a young John F. Kennedy (JFK) as an officer of the United States Navy in the biographical war film ‘PT 109.’ Even though Robertson bore no physical resemblance to JFK, he was an exceptional actor who did perfect justice to the character he played.
Awards & Achievements
In 1966, he was awarded an Emmy for his leading role in the drama, ‘The Game’ (1965) which was featured on Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre.
In 1968 he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Charlie Gordon in the film ‘Charly.’ The same role also earned him the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor.
He was awarded the 2008 Ambassador of Good Will Aviation Award by the National Transportation Safety Board Bar Association.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married actress Cynthia Stone, the former wife of actor Jack Lemmon, in 1957. A daughter was born to them. The marriage did not last long and ended in 1959.
His second marriage was to actress and Post Cereals heiress Dina Merrill in 1966. The couple had one daughter and divorced in 1989.
The actor had a passion for flying and he owned several de Havilland Tiger Moths and a Messerschmitt Bf 108 among other aircraft. He was a certified private pilot and a longtime member of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Cliff Robertson died of natural causes on September 10, 2011, just one day after his 88th birthday.

Cliff Robertson Movies

1. The Best Man (1964)


2. Three Days of the Condor (1975)

  (Mystery, Thriller)

3. Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

  (Thriller, Crime, Drama)

4. Picnic (1956)

  (Drama, Romance)

5. As the Sea Rages (1959)


6. Charly (1968)

  (Sci-Fi, Romance, Drama)

7. The Honey Pot (1967)

  (Comedy, Crime)

8. My Six Loves (1963)


9. Obsession (1976)

  (Mystery, Drama, Thriller)

10. Spider-Man (2002)

  (Adventure, Action)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1969 Best Actor in a Leading Role Charly (1968)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1966 Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (1963)

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