Robin Williams: Teacher, Alien, Nanny, Legend

Posted on | August 13, 2014 | 3 Comments

John Keating (Robin Williams) inspires and surprises his students in Good Will Hunting (1989)After hearing the tragic news of Robin Williams’ death at age 63, I wanted to watch one of his films. My pick was Peter Weir’s high school tear-jerker Dead Poets Society (1989), about a group of boarding-school boys inspired by their unconventional English teacher (played by Williams). The film, though sometimes cliched and sentimental, is inspiring, witty, and thoughtful, not unlike William’s character. In the last stretch of the film, director Weir truly transcends the feel-good genre and creates something deeply poignant, heartbreaking, almost lyrical.

Despite a shortage of screen time, Williams steals all of his scenes as the quirky, Walt Whitman-quoting, John Wayne-imitating hero who influences his students. Clearly a skilled actor, Williams makes every moment count in an inspirational, drily funny performance. Reaffirming how unforgettable the role is, Apple featured his “What will your verse be speech?” in a memorable iPad ad, last fall.

Alien Mork (Robin Williams) and human Mindy (Pam Dawber) in Mork and MindyOf course, this was only one terrific performance in a career full of them. A star was born when audiences saw his bizarrely hilarious breakout performance in ABC’s alien-out-of-water sitcom Mork and Mindy. After four years, the show was canceled and Williams moved onto film roles, like The World According to Garp (1982) and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), which garnered him his first Oscar nomination. He continued his string of drama-comedies with two more Oscar noms: for Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King (1991). He eventually won, for his supporting role in Good Will Hunting (1997).

Though his most revered roles were his dramatic ones, Williams (originally a stand-up comic) could always make an audience laugh. His high-pitched voice, zany facial expressions, and rapid comic timing made him a distinct comedian with a unique brand of big-screen humor.  Who could forget his performance as divorced-dad turned cross-dressing nanny in the hilarious Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)? Or his voice role as the pop-culture referencing Genie in Disney’s Aladdin (1992)?

Mrs. Doubtfire is not your normal nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)No one will forget those performances, or Robin Williams himself. We’ve lost a legend but we still have his body of work to make us laugh, bring tears, and remind us a true great’s talents. Nanu, nanu.


3 Responses to “Robin Williams: Teacher, Alien, Nanny, Legend”

  1. Cousin Gerald
    August 14th, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

    Pithy commentary on the loss of Mork….

  2. Abid
    August 15th, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

    we enjoyed the movie, and it was a reminder of his great career.

  3. Jeff Howell
    August 15th, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

    For years, I thought of Dead Poets as my favorite movie. As an English teacher, I had a few doubts about Mr. Keating’s final moves in the film, but RW’s performance–managing to integrate his frenetic comic style with the short bursts he had on the screen–worked on both an insightful and endearing level.
    Think about Dead Poets’ ending in terms of RW’s. that’s a thought provoking concept.

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