August 11, 2014 : Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams dies at 63

Introduction

On this day in 2014, actor and comedian Robin Williams, who rose to prominence in the late 1970s in the hit TV sitcom “Mork & Mindy” then went on to star in dozens of films, including “Dead Poets Society” (1989), “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) and “Good Will Hunting” (1997), is found dead at his home in Tiburon, California, after committing suicide. As a performer, the versatile, inventive Williams was known as both a comic genius with a rapid-fire delivery and talent for impressions, as well as an accomplished dramatic actor who took on a broad range of roles. After his death, it was announced the 63-year-old entertainer had been suffering from severe depression and was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

Born on July 21, 1951, in Chicago, Williams, whose father was an auto executive, spent much of his childhood in the Detroit area. As a teen, he moved with his family to Northern California and graduated from Redwood High School in 1969. Williams attended Claremont Men’s College and the College of Marin before studying acting at the prestigious Julliard School in New York City. It was there he became lifelong friends with actor Christopher Reeve (“Superman”). In 1978, Williams, who began performing stand-up comedy in the 1970s, made a guest appearance on the long-running TV sitcom “Happy Days,” playing an alien called Mork from the planet Ork. The character soon got his own spinoff series, “Mork & Mindy,” which aired from 1978 to 1982 and skyrocketed Williams to fame as a rainbow suspenders-wearing extraterrestrial whose catchphrases included “nanu nanu” and “shazbot.”

On the big screen, Williams made his debut in the 1977 low-budget comedy “Can I Do it ‘Til I Need Glasses?” then went on to appear in films such as “The World According to Garp” (1982), “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984) and “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987), for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination, in the best actor category, for his performance as an Armed Forces Radio disc jockey. Williams also received best actor Oscar nods for his role as an influential English teacher in “Dead Poets Society” and his role as a delusional homeless man in “The Fisher King” (1991). Among the prolific performer’s other credits are “Aladdin” (1992), in which he voiced the part of the genie, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” in which he portrayed a British nanny and “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Oscar, in the best supporting actor category, for his role as a therapist. Williams followed these projects with films including “One Hour Photo” (2002), “The Night Listener” (2006), the “Happy Feet” series (2006-11) and the “Night at the Museum” series (2006-14). The actor made a comeback to network TV in 2013 with “The Crazy Ones,” in which he starred as an eccentric ad exec; however, the series was cancelled after one season.

On the big screen, Williams made his debut in the 1977 low-budget comedy “Can I Do it ‘Til I Need Glasses?” then went on to appear in films such as “The World According to Garp” (1982), “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984) and “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987), for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination, in the best actor category, for his performance as an Armed Forces Radio disc jockey. Williams also received best actor Oscar nods for his role as an influential English teacher in “Dead Poets Society” and his role as a delusional homeless man in “The Fisher King” (1991). Among the prolific performer’s other credits are “Aladdin” (1992), in which he voiced the part of the genie, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” in which he portrayed a British nanny and “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Oscar, in the best supporting actor category, for his role as a therapist. Williams followed these projects with films including “One Hour Photo” (2002), “The Night Listener” (2006), the “Happy Feet” series (2006-11) and the “Night at the Museum” series (2006-14). The actor made a comeback to network TV in 2013 with “The Crazy Ones,” in which he starred as an eccentric ad exec; however, the series was cancelled after one season.

Williams was involved in a number of charitable causes, such as co-hosting telethons, along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, for Comic Relief, an organization that helps homeless people. The actor also was a regular on USO tours, entertaining American troops around the world. In his stand-up routines, Williams spoke openly about his experiences with substance abuse and sobriety.

After Williams committed suicide by hanging on August 11, 2014, tributes poured in from the Hollywood community and beyond. President Barack Obama said of the enterainer: “[He] was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan and everything in-between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien—but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

Article Details:

August 11, 2014 : Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams dies at 63

  • Author

    History.com Staff

  • Website Name

    History.com

  • Year Published

    2014

  • Title

    August 11, 2014 : Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams dies at 63

  • URL

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/oscar-winning-actor-robin-williams-dies-at-63

  • Access Date

    October 20, 2017

  • Publisher

    A+E Networks