RobinWilliamsMagnumRobin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Laurie, was a former model from Jackson, Mississippi; and his father, Robert, was a senior executive in Ford Motor Company’s Lincoln-Mercury Division. He had two brothers: Robert Todd and McLaurin Smith. For the first portion of his life, Robin attended Gorton Elementary School and Deer Path Junior High School in Lake Forest, Illinois. In late 1963, when Robin was twelve, his father was transferred to Detroit. He then attended the private Detroit Country Day School. He excelled in school, where he was on the soccer team and wrestling team, and became class president.

When Robin was sixteen years old, his father took early retirement and the family moved to Tiburon, California. Following the move, Williams attended Redwood High School in Larkspur. At the time of his graduation in 1969, he was voted “Most Likely Not to Succeed” and “Funniest” by his classmates. Upon graduating, Robin briefly attended Claremont Men’s College, but he would later drop out to pursue an acting career. For three years, he studied theater at College of Marin. During his enrollment in the drama program, Robin became known for his improvisation skills and his ability to leave his fellow classmates in stitches. His professor, James Dunn, has stated that he knew Williams was going to be something special.

In 1973, Robin received a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York City. He was one of twenty students accepted into the freshman class and one of only two students to be accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program; His eventual best friend, Christopher Reeve, was the other honoree.

Reeve and Williams had a class in dialects taught by Edith Skinner. Skinner was baffled by Robin’s ability to instantly perform in any dialect, including Scottish, Irish, English, Russian, Italian, and a plethora of others. Their main acting teacher was Michael Kahn. Kahn occasionally criticized Robin’s antics and referred to them simple stand-up comedy. However, Robin was able to silence his critics with his convincing role as an old man in The Night of the Iguana, by Tennessee Williams.

In 1976, during his junior year, Robin left Juilliard at the suggestion of John Houseman. Houseman felt that there as nothing more that the school could teach him. Robin was described as a genius by one of his other teachers and it was believed that the school’s classical style of training was not suitable for him.

Robin began his career in entertainment by doing stand-up comedy shows in the San Francisco Bay Area and later Los Angeles. In 1977, Robin caught the eye of TV producer George Schlatter, who had previously attended one of Robin’s gigs. Schlatter gave Williams his first TV spot in a rival of Laugh-In. That same year, Robin also performed a show at the LA Improv for HBO. After a brief stint on the the short-lived The Richard Pryor Show, Robin was eventually cast as the alien Mork for an episode of the hit TV series Happy Days that marked the beginning of a very successful career. Mork’s appearance became so popular that it led to a spin-off series called Mork & Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982; the show was written to accommodate Williams’s stellar improvisation skills. Toward the end of the series, Robin even had the honor of acting along side one of his idols, Jonathan Winters. Winters played Mork and Mindy’s only son.

While juggling an award-winning stand-up and television career, Robin also ventured into films. He made his first appearance in the 1977 low-budget comedy Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses? However, his first major performance was the title character in Popeye (1980). Sadly, the film was considered a flop. Robin continued to have small roles in less successful films until his big break when he captured the starring role in 1987’s Good Morning, Vietnam, which also earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Robin was allowed to play the role without a script; therefore, he improvised most of his lines. In 1989, Robin received another Academy Award nomination for his incredible performance in the film Dead Poets Society, which Robin would later state was his favorite film. Williams continued to appear in a multitude of critically-acclaimed comedies and dramas throughout the 1990s, including: Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), The Birdcage (1996), Good Will Hunting (1997), Patch Adams (1998), and What Dreams May Come (1998). Robin won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also snagged Golden Globes for his performances in The Fisher King and Mrs. Doubtfire.

In the 2000s, Robin took on darker roles, including a writer/killer on the run from a sleep-deprived Los Angeles policeman in Insomnia (2002) and an emotionally disturbed photo development technician in One Hour Photo (also in 2002). In 2006, he starred in a thriller called The Night Listener.

During his career, Williams starred as a voice actor in several animated films. Perhaps his most-beloved animated character was the Genie in the 1992 film Aladdin. The role was written specifically for him and he improvised much of his dialogue and impersonated dozens of celebrity voices. It was the highest grossing film for that year and Robin also walked away with another Golden Globe Award. Some of Robin’s other notable voice-over works include: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Robots (2005), and Happy Feet (2006).

Robin continued to appear in various films throughout the 2000s. In 2013, it was announced that he would be making a much-anticipated return to television in a series called The Crazy Ones. Williams starred as Simon Roberts, an executive at the Chicago advertising agency Lewis, Roberts + Roberts, who worked with his daughter, Sydney, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. This marked Robin’s first starring role in a TV series since Mork & Mindy. Sadly, the series was canceled after one season.

Robin’s body of work is certainly something to be proud of; and it is equally matched by his endless amount of kindness. When Christopher Reeve suffered the horrific horse-riding accident that left him quadriplegic, Robin visited his old friend in the hospital and made him laugh despite the situation. When Reeve’s medical insurance ran out, Williams paid many of his expenses until his death in 2004. When Christopher’s wife, Dana passed away in 2006, Robin went on to provide support for the couple’s teenage son.

Aside from helping out loved ones in need, Robin made many contributions to various charities. In 1986, he teamed-up with close friends Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal to found Comic Relief USA, an annual HBO television benefit devoted to the homeless. He was a regular on the USO circuit, performing for the troops. Robin and his second wife, Marsha, also founded the Windfall Foundation, a philanthropic organization that raises money for many charities. He was also a proud supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Sadly, with such a huge heart, comes great sadness. On August 11, 2014, Robin tragically passed away. He leaves behind his lovely wife Susan and three children. Though his time on earth was far too brief, Robin captured the hearts of many. To quote Billy Crystal, “Robin Williams…What a concept.”

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