Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams (r.) with Pam Dawber from the TV series Mork and Mindy

By now, you've probably heard of the death of actor Robin Williams, who was found dead in an apparent suicide yesterday at the age of 63. Most people my age and above would probably first remember him (if no longer best remember him) from the TV show Mork and Mindy, which had Robin Williams playing an alien from the planet Ork who comes to Earth to study humand and winds up falling in love with earthling Mindy (Pam Dawber). In what must have been a move to bolster sagging ratings, they even ended up having an offspring together, that being a reverse-aging Jonathan Winters. (Thedy did the reverse-aging thing decades before The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, although they didn't get anywhere near as far thanks to the cancellation of the series.)

Mork and Mindy was entertaining, nonsensical fluff for a six-year-old, but I have to admit that as I became an adult, I started to find that sort of manic humor to be tedious and a bit grating. It's not just Robin Williams; I find Peter Sellers' Strangelove character (bot not the other two characters he plays in Dr. Strangelove) to be like fingernails on a chalkboard, for example. So I never tended to be as much of a fan of his movies as other people would be, even though he did a reasonably wide range of movies. (Well, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting are both mawkish, although the latter one is Matt Damon's fault; the movie won Williams an Oscar.)

That, and I also became less and less of a Disney animated feature fan as I grew up, especially of the contemporary, so things like Aladdin weren't quite my thing either. Not that this lessens anybody's talent. I did radio in college reading the news, and I know from experience doing live reading and sounding good is difficult; much more so than you'd think. Oh sure, anybody can read words off the page, but doing it while sounding the right way (serious but not grave for news; the whole range of emotions for animation)? That's where it gets difficult.

And then there are the movies that I ought to reacquaint myself, such as Moscow on the Hudson, or the entertaining if completely implausible Dead Again.

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