There’s lots of reminiscing in the Moving Image Section today about Robin Williams. My younger colleagues first remember him from Aladdin (1992) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), for others it was his Eighties films Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) and Dead Poets Society (1989), and for folks of my generation, he’ll always be a little bit Mork. The online tributes frequently use words like “manic” and “irrepressible” to describe Williams, and certainly the amazing rapidity of his fertile mind and his barely contained energy were wondrous things to behold.
A word I haven’t seen a lot is “disciplined,” but that’s how I remember Williams. As much as I love his more antic persona, I’ve always been drawn to his subtler characterizations in films like Good Will Hunting (1998), One Hour Photo (2002), and the mordant World’s Greatest Dad (2010). As a performer, Williams was genuinely fearless–an actor unafraid to explore the darkest recesses of his soul, speaking with brutal honesty about his real life struggles with alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression. And yet we’ll remember him not for his demons, but for his unrestrained, ebullient joy. He was, truly, the opposite of a cynic.
We’re grateful to have a lot of Robin Williams’ career represented in our collection, including his very first appearance as Mork from Ork on a 1978 episode of Happy Days, his star-making ascent in Mork and Mindy**, his hilarious co-hosting appearances with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal on the HBO Comic Relief specials, and, of course, his films. His was an impressive body of work, and although we’re collectively saddened by his passing, we’re honored that so much of his artistic legacy is preserved here.
** Interestingly, the pilot episode of Mork and Mindy was registered for copyright on 3 April 1979 as the “Mork and Mindy Hour Special,” but the Copyright Office returned the 16mm print to Paramount Television at their request. However, on 21 May 1981, under the provisions of the Motion Picture Agreement, we received a print back from Paramount.