Cliff Robertson has made more than 60 movies over a span of 50 years. He has won lasting recognition and numerous awards, including the coveted “Oscar” for his role in Charly. His filmography is fascinating not only because it reveals the milestones of an important actor’s on-going career but particularly because he has made a specialty of difficult roles. His characters are ofttimes challenging and his interpretation has plumbed the depths of their emotions. His men struggle with what it is to be a man, a father, a leader, a pawn.
Over the years, these portrayals have documented changing attitudes of the 20th and early 21st century. When being mentally retarded was still a joking matter, Cliff not only played such a character in the TV adaptation of “Flowers for Algenon” but also bought the movie rights so that he could reprise the role of Charly on the big screen. When seeking psychological help was a stigma rather than a credential, Cliff took on roles ranging from a paranoid young man in Autumn Leaves, to the grief-stricken widower of Obsession, to the true story of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s despair, told in Return to Earth. His heroic roles are many times of compromised characters, like JW Coop who is just getting out of jail when the movie starts, or the protagonist of The Pilot who drinks on the job.