Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson dies at 88

Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:39am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Cliff Robertson, who won an Oscar playing a mentally disabled janitor in "Charly" and worked in movies ranging from "PT 109" to "Spider-Man 3," died in New York Saturday, the day after his 88th birthday.

Robertson's career spanned more than 60 years and included Hollywood movies, Broadway shows, television dramas and commercials. He also is remembered for his courage in exposing powerful Columbia studios chief David Begelman, who had forged his name on a $10,000 check in the late 1970s.

Begelman's misappropriation of studio money caused a scandal at the time that was dubbed "Hollywoodgate" and Robertson became a hero among some industry players by risking his career to expose Begelman. In fact, work dried up for several years before he forged a comeback.

Hollywood's film industry awarded him its highest honor, the Oscar. Robertson won the Academy Award for best actor for the 1968 film "Charly" in which he portrayed a mentally disabled man who is transformed into a genius in an experiment, only to regress to his former self.

Robertson's work as a top dramatic actor of his generation earned him his greatest fame. He also portrayed a young John F. Kennedy in "PT 109" and the elderly Ben Parker, uncle to the crime fighter Peter Parker, in the "Spider-Man" movies.

And his work in television, which dated back to the "Playhouse 90" dramas of the 1950s, earned him that medium's top prize, an Emmy.

U.S. media reported that Robertson died at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York state of natural causes.