Robin Williams Remembered for Depth, Range with Characters

Robin Williams in 1989’s Dead Poet’s Society.’’
Robin Williams in 1989’s Dead Poet’s Society.’’

The initial shock at the news of Robin Williams’ death was immediately followed by an outpouring of grief at his passing and honest, emotional memories of what the legendary comedian and actor meant to generations of Americans.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times said Williams locked up his Academy Award for “Good Will Hunting’’ during a three-minute scene where he told the story of meeting his wife before Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

Roeper marveled at Williams’ ability to master both comedy and drama during his career.

If Robin Williams had never performed in a single dramatic role in his career, he would have been remembered as a Hall of Fame comedian.

If Robin Williams had never told a single joke onstage, had never starred in a sitcom or a feature comedy, he would have been remembered as one of the more storied dramatic actors of the last 30 years.

He was a renaissance entertainer.

Time’s Richard Corliss lauded Williams as an actor who was too big for any one role.

Playing one character at a time, for months on end, didn’t properly exploit Williams’ unique gift of being everyone at once. His true model and mentor was not an Olivier or Brando but freeform comic Jonathan Winters, who also battled to call a truce with the manifold Genie geniuses in his head. In California, Williams joined Laverne & Shirley as Mork from Ork and soon had his own high-rated show. Between seasons he did Popeye, and a series of epochal one-man concerts that crowded the stage with figments of his teeming brain.


Slate’s Forest Wickman noted that Williams, already a legend for his stand-up work and film roles of the 80’s, instantly became a cultural icon to a new generation with his turn as the genie in Alladin:

The role allowed Williams to work on a wider canvas than ever, according to Wickman:

…Aladdin allowed Robin Williams to become what he so often was: a cartoon. When he first emerges from the lamp, he runs through more than a dozen different impressions in a single minute, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to a Scot in a kilt to Ed Sullivan. He keeps this rate up for the rest of the runtime of the movie, even when he’s also carrying a song. The animators somehow kept up, managing to morph the character from line to line just as Williams did with his voice-over. Williams didn’t get an Oscar nomination for the role, but it allowed him to fully become what he so often seemed—superhuman.

Loading Comments...

Love Letters
Chat at 1 p.m.
September 21, 2017 | 6:45 AM