Charm, wit and intelligence - the legacy of Robin Williams

FUNNY MAN: Stand-up comedian Robin Williams in the TV series Set List, and (inset) fan tributes.
FUNNY MAN: Stand-up comedian Robin Williams in the TV series Set List, and (inset) fan tributes.

FROM an eccentric alien to a genie let out of a bottle, Robin Williams infused all his characters with his charm, wit and intelligence.

From the moment he uttered Mork's famous phrase "Nanu, nanu" in the sitcom Mork and Mindy in 1978, Williams became the man who made the world laugh.

As fans across the globe mourn the 63-year-old, found dead at his home in California on Monday from a suspected suicide, the NewsMail pays tribute to a career that spanned about four decades.

And those decades are littered with memorable performances.

Everybody has their personal favourite.

Perhaps a favourite was his first Academy Award-nominated role as an unorthodox American DJ who shook up the status quo when he was assigned to a US armed services radio station in Vietnam - Good Morning Vietnam.

Maybe it was it was as inspirational English teacher John Keating in Peter Weir's 1989 film Dead Poets Society.

Or it could be as Daniel Hillard, a father so desperate to be around his estranged kids he dresses up as an old Scottish nanny to be close to them in Mrs Doubtfire.

Whichever performance left an indelible mark on your life, Williams was undoubtedly an engaging, ferociously funny and manic performer with rapid-fire quips and an arsenal of uncanny impersonations at his disposal.

Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams was inspired by comics Jonathan Winters and Richard Pryor and like them he pushed the boundaries of comedy with no subject taboo.

His razor-sharp tongue and ability to ad lib meant this titan of comedy was equally at home riffing on everything from politics and relationships to Hollywood and masturbation.

Williams, who studied acting at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York, had serious and engaging roles in The World According to Garp, The Fisher King and his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting as well as very dark and restrained roles in One Hour Photo and Insomnia.

He brought enthusiasm and emotional depth to his voice work in animated features such as FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Happy Feet and of course as Genie in Disney's Aladdin.

He was simultaneously funny and touching in films such as The Birdcage and childhood favourites Jumanji and Steven Spielberg's Hook.

Williams was sometimes let down by poor scripts, such as those for Old Dogs and Jack, so it would often be in candid interviews or on stage performing stand-up routines that he could let loose his comedic brilliance.

On stage he was limited only by his wild and vivid imagination.

US president Barack Obama paid homage to the actor in a statement, saying Williams made people laugh and cry and "gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most - from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalised on our own streets".

While Williams made no secret of his struggle with alcohol, drugs and depression over the years, it's still sad to think that a man so gifted at bringing joy to many people's lives could not in the end find joy in his own.

Topics:  film movies robin williams

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