A Critic Looks Back at the Film Career of Robin Williams, from 'Garp' to 'Good Will' and Beyond
It is a show-business axiom: The tragedian pines to be a comedian; the comedian longs to be a tragedian. So it was with Robin Williams.
In films varied as The World According to Garp to One Hour Photo, the man whose motormouth exceeded the land-speed record made audiences laugh and cry — often during the same movie; or as in the case of Mrs. Doubtfire, won tears and guffaws in the same scene.
While the man who first caught the public eye as Mork from Ork seemed a pure creature of stand up comedy, Williams was, in fact, a thespian stage-trained at Juilliard. The story goes that when Williams auditioned for the role of Mork, producer Garry Marshall told the hyperactive actor to sit down. Williams responded by doing a headstand on the proffered chair, leading Marshall to hire him because “he was the only alien who auditioned.”
Here then are some of Robin Williams’ unforgettable screen creations:
The World According to Garp (1982)
Williams made a striking, if not altogether smooth, dramatic debut as the fatherless son of a feminist mother in George Roy Hill’s adaptation of John Irving’s tragicomedy of men and women at cross purposes. The actor is remarkably assured in the film’s playful passages. But in this episodic story about a wrestler who maintains his manhood among castrating women, Williams transition to the serious sequences is less than graceful.