Legendary actor Cliff Robertson has passed on at 88 years of age.
Sure, we remember him from PT 109 portraying John F. Kennedy who was personally chosen by the late president to portray him and Charly; based on the book, Flowers For Algernon, where he portrayed a mentally challenged man that was given a drug that enhanced his intelligence with mixed results garnering him a Best Actor Academy Award, but it was his work in science fiction and fantasy that he's remembered the most by all of us.
In 1953, Mr. Robertson landed a television series called Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers who with a group of other space men traveled the galaxies maintaining peace and investigating the unknown. A pre-Star Trek type show that featured aliens from other worlds, but more of a copy of Space Patrol (the series was also created by the same writer). It included great titled stories such as The Man Who Was Radioactive, The Cobalt Bomb and the Bird Girl of Venus among the 53 kinescoped shows that were filmed live.
Mr. Robertson would get up at 4:00 A.M. on Saturday morning, rehearse and film the episode, race across town to perform in matinee and evening shows on stage in Late Love with Elizabeth Montgomery (Samantha from Bewitched and the late, great actor/director Robert Montgomery's daughter). By the time it was 11:00 P.M. at night, he was exhausted. A true, dedicated actor to his craft.
Sadly, like the original television series A For Andromeda and the majority of the episodes from the Quatermass Experiment, Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers are lost forever.
In the original Twilight Zone series, he was part of a wagon train traveling to California in the early 1800s who walked over a sand dune into the 20th Century acquiring simple, modern medicine by today's standards to save his dying son in A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.
In, The Dummy, a very creepy episode indeed, he was a ventriloquist that was a tortured soul haunted by his partner on stage; a living mannequin. The ending still gives people the chills.
In the Outer Limits pilot, The Galaxy Being (exteriors filmed at the old Mt. Lee station in the Hollywood Hills) he was a radio station owner trying to contact the outer regions of the universe using his electronic equipment he tinkered together. Here, no one believes he can accomplish anything and even his wife thinks of him as foolish and asks him who he thinks he is, but Mr. Robertson's moment shines as he tells her that he's nobody, nobody at all, but the secrets of the universe don't mind. They reveal themselves to nobodies who care.
In Spider-man as Uncle Ben, he delivers the classic line, "With great power comes great responsibility."
On a personal note, Mr. Robertson inspired me when I was a child.
Here in the States, we have an organization called Civil Air Patrol which is an auxiliary of the air force where they teach young men and women about flying. At six years old, on our old black and white blond colored encased television, a licensed private pilot himself, I watched him perform a series of public service announcements (PSA's) talking about the organization. I was too little to join, but I was hooked. After all, he was Cliff Robertson. He was cool.
When I was old enough I did join and the experience always stayed with me. I rose to the rank of cadet captain hoping to become a pilot and fly the A-10 Warthog (which just came off the assembly line), but fate intervened and it was never to be.
A few years ago, Mr. Robertson was signing at a local autograph show and this was my chance to meet him.
I brought down my dress blues uniform that I had kept for sentimental reasons and met Mr. Robertson telling him what I accomplished when I was with CAP. I told him that he had made a difference in my life by doing those PSA's and that he inspired me to want to be a pilot. He was genuinely appreciative, he shook my hand and then he saluted me (Up the buttons) of which I returned the salute. I will always remember this moment.
Cliff Robertson was a great actor and a great man. He will always live in our hearts and in our memories.