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Entertainment News: RIP Cliff Robertson

Cliff Robertson in his Oscar-winning performance as "Charly."
ABC Pictures/Cinerama Releasing Corporation
Cliff Robertson in his Oscar-winning performance as "Charly."

Oscar-Winning Actor Passed Away One Day After Turning 88

Actor Cliff Robertson, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a mentally handicapped man in "Charly" (1968), died of natural causes Saturday, one day after his 88th birthday. He was born in La Jolla on September 9, 1923 and attended La Jolla High. He had also owned a landmark beachfront home in La Jolla.

The actor got his start in the 1955 "Picnic," and also starred in a series of teleplays during TV's Golden Age of "Playhouse 90" and "Robert Montgomery Presents." He was chosen by John F. Kennedy to portray the younger US Navy Lieutenant Kennedy in the World War II drama "PT 109" (1963).

Robertson originated the role of Charly Gordon in the 1961 television drama "The Two Worlds of Charly Gordon," based on the story "Flowers for Algenon" by Daniel Keyes. He bought the rights to Keyes' story and spent years trying to bring it to the big screen. He eventually went on to reprise the role in "Charly" in 1968, which won him the Oscar.

Off screen Robertson campaigned for Congressman Mo Udall in 1976, and wrote a poem for Udall's funeral. In 1977, he gained notoriety (as well as a period of blacklisting) for exposing a check forging and embezzling scandal at Columbia Pictures. He was also known for his passion for sailplanes and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

Robertson made some forgettable films like the Joan Crawford vehicle "Autumn Leaves" and some silly ones like the teen film "Gidget," where he played The Big Kahuna (he's the one surfing with a hat on in the clip below).

He tried his hand at directing, helming one TV episode and two feature films, "J.W. Coop" and "The Pilot." He never really became a Hollywood star but he consistently got leading roles in major films and delivered impressive performances. More recently his career got a boost from playing Uncle Ben in the "Spider-Man" movies. As Uncle Ben he got to deliver the famous line, "Remember, with great power. comes great responsibility."

On his personal website, you can find information about his charitable work as well as a song he wrote for the late Johnny Cash.

He worked successfully in Hollywood but never quite bought into the Hollywood lifestyle and had described himself as "too independent" to really play the Hollywood game. He leaves behind a collection of great performances as well as a legacy of activism and charitable giving. He will be missed.