Cliff Robertson Passes Away at Age 88

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 5th, 2013 at 1:45 pm,

The late Cliff Robertson – who passed away yesterday, just a day after his 88th birthday – gained a whole new generation of fans over the last decade of his life, following his portrayal of Peter Parker’s kindly Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movie trilogy. He personally and professionally embraced Ben’s famous creed (“With great power comes great responsibility”) for the duration of his film acting career, which spanned nearly six decades.

Robertson was born in Los Angeles, California, on September 9th, 1923. He began his television acting career at age 20, eventually landing recurring parts on shows like Hallmark Hall of Fame and Robert Montgomery Presents – along with a starring role on Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers – during the early 1950s.

Following his big screen debut in director Joshua Logan’s Oscar-winning Picnic adaptation in 1955, Robertson starred opposite Joan Crawford in Autumn Leaves and appeared in noteworthy titles such as The Naked and the Dead, Gidget, Underworld U.S.A., and My Six Loves, among others.

However, the actor’s career was given a major boost after then-president John F. Kennedy personally recruited Robertson to play a younger version of himself in PT 109 – a well-received dramatization of Kennedy’s experiences when he served in the U.S. Navy as the captain of a PT boat during World War II.

cliff robertson pt 109 Cliff Robertson Passes Away at Age 88

Cliff Robertson as John F. Kennedy in ‘PT 109′

The next several years saw Robertson take on many an acclaimed role, including that of an unscrupulous presidential candidate in The Best Man; Mosca in the then-contemporary retelling of Ben Johnson’s famous 15th century dark comedic play “Volpine,” retitled The Honey Pot; and, most famously, that of the mentally-disabled Charly Gordon in the 1968 film Charly – a performance that landed Robertson a Best Actor Oscar.

Robertson not only continued to take on challenging roles during the 1970s – he also became somewhat of a rabble-rouser in the area of politics, during that period. In addition to directing/starring in the western drama J.W. Coop – not to mention, his parts in counter-cultural titles such as The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid and Three Days of the Condor – Roberston campaigned for Congressman Mo Udall during the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary in 1976. That’s not to mention, his recurring role on the Emmy-winning 1977 TV mini-series Washington: Behind Closed Doors, which was inspired by the presidency of Richard Nixon.

Things took a turn for the potentially career-wrecking in 1978, when Robertson served as the whistle blower that exposed the illicit dealings of then Columbia Pictures head David Begelman – who ended up pleading no contest to charges of grand theft. Robertson was blacklisted by Hollywood studios for several years after the event.

Nonethless, Robertson still managed to find work throughout the 1980s and 90s, including a brief recurring role on the soap opera Falcon Crest and parts in films likeĀ Star 80 (where Robertson played Hugh Hefner), Class, the TV movie Ford: The Man and the Machine, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and the cult classic sequel Escape from L.A.

cliff robertson uncle ben spider man Cliff Robertson Passes Away at Age 88

Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris in ‘Spider-Man’

Mainstream audiences rediscovered Robertson in 2002, when he portrayed Uncle Ben in Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie – a part he would go on to reprise (via flashback) in the next two sequels. Robertson was also bestowed with a more personal honor during the early 21st century when, in 2006, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame for his lifelong work as a sailplane pilot and advocate of aviation in general.

Ben Parker will be portrayed by award-winner Martin Sheen in the upcoming reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. However, for many a Spidey fan, Robertson’s portrayal of the character will remain the iconic one – and not just because he embraced the same values that good ol’ Uncle Ben held tight to (honesty, fairness, responsibility, and a willingness to see justice done) in his personal life as well.

Screen RantĀ would like to express our sincere condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Robertson.

R.I.P. Cliff Robertson: September 9th, 1923 – September 10th, 2011.

TAGS: Spider-man
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  1. RIP Cliff

  2. R. I. P. Cliff Robertson my condolences to his family and friends ,cliff did an amazing job as uncle Ben in the spiderman trilogy he will be missed

  3. Oh my god! RIP Cliff.

  4. One of the first films I remember watching on cable was PT-109 as a kid

    Three Days of the Condor

    So many classics

  5. Sad news, what a great actor.

    R.I.P Mr. Cliff Robertson

  6. So sad.

  7. A wonderful actor. May he rest in peace.

  8. R I P :(

  9. RIP Mr Cliff Robertson

  10. I am amazed that he was HAND PICKED by none other then JFK to play as a younger version of himself, what an honor…

    RIP Cliff

  11. Charly made me want to be dumb! RIP

  12. RIP

    was the death natural causes?

  13. RIP You were the perfect Uncle Ben!

  14. After a stunning 88 years, may you rest in peace Mr. Robertson…

  15. You forgot Brainstorm, with the late Natalie Wood…

  16. Before he played Ben, I remember him playing the company lead in the film Brainstorm, opposite Chris Walken and Natalie Wood. My prayers go out to his friends and family.

  17. 88? Wow I did not think he was that old, kept in good shape…def will be well remembered

  18. For years Three Day of the Condor was my fav. Ironic that he died a day before 9/11 when his office in the film was in one of the towers with a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge I might add.
    There’s another shot of Redford waiting in the Lobby.

  19. R.I.P Cliff Robertson we will never forget you

  20. Really sorry to read about this loss. Such a small but important role in Spider-Man.