Cliff Robertson, R.I.P.
Cliff Robertson (Clifford Parker Robertson III) , known to most modern fans as Uncle Ben in the SPIDER-MAN films, passed away Saturday, September 10th. He was 88.
Also known for playing John F. Kennedy in P.T. 109, Robertson had some significant genre roles in his career.
In 1954, he hit the early television airwaves as the lead in ROD BROWN OF THE ROCKET RANGERS, on CBS.
Co-starring Jack Weston and Arthur Batanides (later in STAR TREK and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), it featured the adventures of the young crew of the rocket Beta.
Sadly this series is considered lost, as the makers of its predecessor on the network, TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET won their legal case that branded ROD BROWN a direct steal of their show. Apparently all kinescopes of the live series’ 58 episodes were destroyed.
Robertson appeared on two episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE ( ‘The Dummy’ and ‘One Hundred Yards Over the Rim’) and starred in the pilot to THE OUTER LIMITS, ‘The Galaxy Being’.
In 1961, Cliff Robertson starred onTHE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR in ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon’ based on the the classic science fiction tale, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Hugo Award, Best Short Story 1960), later extended into the (Nebula Award-winning ) 1966 novel of the same name.
Taken by the ulitmately tragic tale of a mentally retarded man given enhanced intelligence, he bought the film rights. In 1969 he starred in the feature film version CHARLY, and won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Robertson guest-starred on four episodes of BATMAN in the 60’s as the crooked cowboy Shame. The show was produced by William Dozier, who had also produced ROD BROWN.
In the TV movie RETURN TO EARTH (1976), he played astronaut ‘Buzz” Aldrin.
As a character actor, he appeared in Doug Trumbull’s BRAINSTORM (1986), John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM LA (1993), and on the revived OUTER LIMITS (‘Joyride’, 1999).
In 2002 he starred in SPIDER-MAN, and also starred in the “Jersey Devil” film THE 13TH CHILD. He reprised the role of Ben Parker for flash/dream sequences as Ben Parker in SPIDER-MAN 2 and 3.