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(1925– ). American actor.

Acted in: Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers (tv series) (1953-1954); "A Hundred Yards over the Rim" (1961), "The Dummy" (1962), episodes of The Twilight Zone; "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon" (1961), episode of The United States Steel Hour; "The Galaxy Being" (1963), episode of The Outer Limits; The Best Man (Franklin J. SCHAFFNER 1964); "Come Back, Shame / It's the Way You Play the Game" (1966), "The Great Escape / The Great Train Robbery" (1968), episodes of Batman; Charly (Ralph Nelson 1968); Man on a Swing (Frank Perry 1974); Return to Earth (tv movie) (Jud Taylor 1976); Obsession (Brian DE PALMA 1976); Dominique Is Dead (Michael ANDERSON 1978);  The Little Prince (animated short; narrator) (will Vinton 1979); Brainstorm (Douglas TRUMBULL 1983); Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval (documentary) (Susan Lacy 1995); John Carpenter's Escape from L.A. (John CARPENTER 1996); The Outer Limits Phenomenon (documentary) (1996); "Danger in the Jet Stream" (documentary; narrator) (1997), episode of Nova; "Joyride" (1999), episode of The Outer Limits; Falcon Down (Phillip J. Roth 2000); 13th Child (and co-wrote with Michael Maryk) (Steven Stockage 2002); Spider-Man (Sam RAIMI 2002); Behind the Scenes: Spider-Man the Movie (short documentary) (2002);  Riding the Bullet (Mick Garris 2004); Spider-Man 2 (Raimi 2004); Spider-Man 3 (Raimi 2007).
On and off the screen, Cliff Robertson has always seemed like a really nice guy—yet veteran observers of Hollywood hardly need to be told that, on and off the screen, being a really nice guy can sometimes be a major liability. Still, simply by surviving in the business for over half a century, Robertson has demonstrated that he must have more inner strength and determination than one might suppose from some of his performances.

In his first decade as an actor, he mostly played small roles in films and on television, including some juvenile heroics in the forgotten, and probably lost, television series Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers, and first made an impact as a cynical surfer in Gidget (1959). Always a natural for roles in westerns, Robertson was persuasive as an 1847 pioneer who befuddledly stumbles into the present in one episode of The Twilight Zone, "A Hundred Yards over the Rim," and displayed his propensity for victimhood in another episode, "The Dummy," portraying a ventriloquist tormented by, and eventually replaced by, his sentient, malevolent dummy. As he gradually established himself as a major star—personally selected by President John F. Kennedy to portray him in the biopic PT 109 (1963) and playing an unscrupulous presidential candidate in The Best Man—the producers of a new series, The Outer Limits, undoubtedly imagined that it was a major coup to secure his services for their opening episode, "The Galaxy Being," which billed Robertson as a special guest star. But he was oddly ineffectual, utterly unable to convey his character's obsessive devotion to radio research and strangely subdued while engaging in humanity's first conversation with an alien being. He did far better as laid-back, engaging western villain Shame in a two-part episode of Batman, unexpectedly earning the contrived character a return appearance.

In 1968, reprising a role he had played in an episode of The United States Steel Hour, Robertson gave his finest performance in Charly as a mentally retarded man, Charlie Gordon, whose intelligence is remarkably increased by scientists, though the effects of their experiment are tragically temporary. Surprisingly earning an Academy Award for his performance—he, Fredric March, and Don Ameche remain the only three actors who have won Oscars for their science fiction films—Robertson seemed well positioned to land more major roles, but during the 1970s he instead floundered in westerns and television movies, the only highlight being his performance as another weak man—Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 astronaut who later suffered a nervous breakdown—in the television movie Return to Earth.

Then, in 1977, he discovered that someone had forged his signature on a $10,000 check, and good guy Robertson did what any fine, upstanding citizen would do—he went to the police, inspired an investigation that eventually fingered studio executive David Begelman as the perpetrator of an embezzlement scheme, and freely discussed the case with the press. But, by the twisted logic of Hollywood, all of this made Robertson the bad guy, and he was effectively blacklisted for a few years for his impunity.  He returned to the spotlight as a sympathetic yet pressured bureaucrat in Douglas TRUMBULL's uneven Brainstorm, and otherwise kept busy during the 1980s with a recurring role in the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest (1983-1984) and more television movies.

Always able to contribute to, but not dominate, whatever proceedings he found himself in, he went on to play a beleaguered President of the United States in John CARPENTER's disastrous John Carpenter's Escape from L.A. and a disgraced astronaut seeking to reclaim his good name in an episode of the revived The Outer Limits, "Joyride."

Youngsters unfamiliar with his classic roles of the 1960s now know Robertson best as Ben Parker, kindly uncle and father figure to Spider-Man Peter Parker, who in the 2002 film intones the immortal line "With great power comes great responsibility" before getting murdered by a criminal. The character was popular enough to merit return appearances (in flashbacks) in Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, and one suspects that producers will also come up with some way to include him in the forthcoming Spider-Man 4.  Perhaps Cliff Robertson never enjoyed either great power or great responsibility, on or off the screen, but he has always answered the call whenever somebody needed a nice guy to lend a helping hand.

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