“Oh Captain, My Captain” Rest in Peace, #RobinWilliams: To the Actor Who Made Us Feel

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Yesterday, there was almost an audible gasp heard around the world as news of the death of actor Robin Williams made its way through news stations. I found out about his death while at my actor survival gig. Literally just twenty-four hours before I found out, I was talking to a co-worker about The Birdcage, and mentioned that it is one of my favorite movies: top three. I mentioned that it was like watching a masterclass in comic timing. Fast forward to a day later, and the person who helped teach that very masterclass on film was gone. Like many of my friends and colleagues in the industry, this celebrity loss seems to be much more than that. It’s as if parts of our hearts are ripped out because Robin Williams had such a monumental impact on us. Whether  he was part of our childhoods with movies like Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire, part of our pubescent years with Dead Poet’s Society and Hook, or part of our adult-hoods with The Birdcage or Good Will Hunting, we all have different points of reference for Williams. He was part of my parent’s generation, and they knew of that shining light from his start on Happy Days and  Mork & Mindy and through his stand-up. His slew of movies and television credits top the 100 mark, he was everywhere. I think it is safe to say, that no single actor’s work has had as great an impact on me as Robin Williams’ has from a human aspect. He made me feel deep emotions of light and dark. Like many, I’ve watched him be funny and serious, sometimes in the same moment. He made us feel something deep inside ourselves. He made that laugh that may have stayed hidden burst out, he made the tears that we were too afraid to show anyone, flow like a river. Robin Williams suffered from depression, and what that was like for him, we will never know. Rather than speculate and make generalizations about why and how he died, all I will say is that it’s tragic. Depression is tragic, suicide the same. That being said, those two things do not change the fact that Williams made us feel what most actors try to all their lives: He made us feel human.

I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.–Robin Williams

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Faerie Tale Theatre: A Closer Look

Christopher Reeve and Bernadette Peters in the "Sleeping Beauty" episode as the Prince and Princess.
Christopher Reeve and Bernadette Peters in the “Sleeping Beauty” episode as the Prince and Sleeping Beauty.

During the filming of Popeye with Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall was inspired to start a children’s television series in the vain of the classic television show Shirley Temple’s Storybook where fairy tales were at the forefront. The production values and the guest-stars were top notch, and in 1982, Faerie Tale Theatre hit the airwaves. With witty dialogue and cultural references that are relevant even today, it’s amazing how popular this show still is. It’s not just a kid’s show either. Like Shelley Duvall said in her intros, it was meant for children of all ages. What’s more impressive, is the sheer amount of all-star guest appearances that graced the screen. Shelley Duvall and her show had a certain appeal that made actors WANT to be on her show. Past, present, and future Oscar-winning actors like Tatum O’Neal, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Anjelica Houston and Helen Mirren all appeared on the show. Numerous character actors, still working today, such as Conchata Ferrel, Christopher Lee, Harry Dean Stanton, Doris Roberts, and John Lithgow, just to name a few, had screen time. The list goes on and on. You can view lists of episodes with guest stars here. What I find fascinating, is these actors, who were and are well-respected, did a so-called “kids” show and gave full-out, amazing performances. It didn’t matter if the audience was all-children, or adults. Faerie Tale Theatre was a show where the quality of the episodes and the quantity of the guest stars were equally matched, and brilliant. Inspiration from illustrations done by famous artists like Norman Rockwell, Gustav Klimt, and Arthur Rackham helped make the back drops and sets unique to each individual fairy tale. In fact, I doubt that in this day and age, a show like this, of this caliber, would even make it onto the airwaves. The acting was superb and it shows. It probably harkens back to the theatrical training of many of the stars of the show. Christopher Reeve was Julliard trained, Bernadette Peters was a Broadway vet,  and Vanessa Redgrave comes from theatrical family for example.

Below is the beginning of Goldilocks and the Three Bears starring Oscar-winner, Tatum O’Neal, Emmy-winner, John Lithgow, and Grammy-winner, Carol King. It’s one of my favorite episodes, and it’s timeless in terms of production values and episode quality.  The full series is available on YouTube for free and worth watching.

Think Happy Thoughts: Movies That Make Me Smile

Certain movies can make turn any frown upside down. In light of Reese Witherspoon’s recent DUI arrest, maybe she should watch Pleasantville or Legally Blonde to help her get through her legal woes. Here’s a list of movies that always put a smile on my face and are worth checking out to help kick off your weekend with a smile of your own.

  1. Babe (1995) Poster Babe (1995): Pigs, especially talking pigs, are adorable. Plus, it has one of the best lines in movie history, ” That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
  2. Amélie (2001) PosterAmélie (2001): It’s French, it’s fabulous, and it ALWAYS puts a smile on my face. Visually stunning too.
  3. Clue (1985) PosterClue (1985): I could watch this movie all day. In fact, I have watched this movie all day on several occasions just to watch the three endings the way they were meant to be seen. It’s also one of the funniest movie ensembles ever with Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd, and the late Madeline Kahn at its helm. Kahn also delivers one of the best improvised monologues I’ve ever seen.
  4. Pretty Woman (1990) PosterPretty Woman (1990): Who wouldn’t want to have an endless supply of pizza while they go on a shopping spree? And bag Richard Gere (from his glory days) in the process? I also wanted to give those salesgirls a piece of my mind.
  5. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) PosterRomy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997): Success is the best form of revenge. Too bad they had to make most of it up. But it’s hysterical in the process. Plus, I really want to know WHO actually invented Post-Its. And, there’s the kick-ass dance number with Alan Cumming, Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino.
  6. Noises Off... (1992) PosterNoises Off… (1992): Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Carol Burnett & Michael Caine in ONE movie. And it has constantly made me laugh every time I watch it. If you’re involved in theater, or have seen the play, it’s definitely worth checking out.
  7. The Philadelphia Story (1940) PosterThe Philadelphia Story  (1940): It’s one of the best movies ever, with three of the biggest stars ever.. It’s classic. And Katharine Hepburn has a scene where she gets drunk. It’s hysterical.
  8. Barefoot in the Park (1967) PosterBarefoot in the Park (1967): Neil Simon’s classic play adapted for the screen in one of the funniest movies about becoming a newlywed.
  9. Nine Months (1995) PosterNine Months (1995): Joan Cusack, Julianne Moore, Tom Arnold, Hugh Grant and a hysterical performance by Robin Williams. The miracle of life gets funny, especially when Julianne Moore’s character goes into labor.
  10. The First Wives Club (1996) PosterThe First Wives Club (1996): Jennifer Lawrence got her “I beat Meryl” line FROM this movie. And it’s hysterical. Divorced women seeking revenge is ACTUALLY FUNNY in this case.