The worlds of film, television, and comedy have lost one of their brightest shining stars.


On the morning of August 11, 2014, Robin Williams was found unconscious and unresponsive in his Paradise Cay, California home by Rebecca Erwin Spencer, his personal assistant. Williams was later pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders around noon. He was 63 years old.

According to a prepared statement issued by Lieutenant Keith Boyd of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, was at the residence at the time of his death. Boyd said Williams was found hanging from a belt wrapped around his neck with several fresh cut marks on his wrists made by a pocketknife found near the comedian’s body. No note was found.
In past years, stars who have passed away were “best known” or remembered by a significant role they played in their lives. Christopher Reeve, a close friend and Julliard classmate of Williams’, was best known for his portrayal of Superman. The recent loss of Paul Walker immediately elicited concern over the future of the Fast & Furious movies.

Robin Williams was without a doubt best known for being Robin Williams. Despite being remembered for several notable roles, from the Genie in Aladdin to Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams always had a personality that made each role uniquely his. Dr. Kristina Bendikas, my own Dramatic Art professor at the State University of New York at Albany, recalled once in a lecture that Williams was much stronger as a performer than as an actor, in that he always implemented his personal comedic quirks for the audience’s enjoyment rather than evoke his enactment to them.

Like many comedians, Williams got started doing his stand-up material at different bars and theaters in California during the 1970’s. Williams stood out with his random off the cuff humor, improvising so much that it became impossible for audience members to tell what parts of his act were rehearsed as it all came across as the intended performance.

After moving to Los Angeles from San Francisco, Williams was approached by producer George Schlatter to appear on his television program, Laugh-In. Williams later got a big break landing the starring role in the comedy series, Mork & Mindy, which lasted for four seasons on ABC from 1978-1982.

Williams’ breakout film role was as the title character in the poorly received and practically forgotten comedy Popeye in 1980. He continued to star in several films in the 1980s, ranging from The World According to Garp to Good Morning Vietnam in 1987. His role as radio personality Adrian Cronauer earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Throughout the years, Williams continued to thrive in film, taking a wide range of roles from adventurous parent to toy manufacturing heir. Several of his feature film roles had the title of “Dr,” whether he was Professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society or the whacky Russian Dr. Kosevich in Nine Months.

After being nominated four times, Williams finally earned an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as psychology professor Dr. Sean Maguire in the acclaimed film, Good Will Hunting. In addition to his Academy Award, Williams earned two Emmy awards in consecutive years for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. He also earned three Grammy awards for different recordings he had done over the course of his career, including one as the narrator of a PBS storybook special about Pecos Bill in 1988.

Williams continued to pursue stand-up performance in addition to his screen roles. In addition to paid appearances, he volunteered several times with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg to raise money for different charities as the hosts of Comic Relief. His last HBO stand-up special, Weapons of Self-Destruction, got nominated for three Primetime Emmys.
Despite all of these successes, Williams struggled with many personal aspects of life. With three children from two estranged wives, is it any wonder that such a star might have doubted his ability to cope with fame?

Like many comedians, Williams’ stand-up act became his own comedic take on his personal scuffles with drug addiction, alcoholism, and depression. Having gone in and out of rehabilitation many times in his life, Williams’ personal life was also bound to become the sporadic subject of scrutiny by the media.

Most recently, it was revealed that Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, further complicating a depression reportedly brought on by financial hard times due to two expensive divorces. According to wife Schneider, “[his] sobriety was intact” at the time of his death. Williams leaves behind three adult children.

Like the candle in the wind referenced by Elton John, the legacy of Robin Williams from stage to home screen to feature film stardom represents the epitome of the Hollywood dream. Despite his untimely end, there is no doubt that Williams will be remembered forever for the smiles he brought and will continue to bring to faces as a truly timeless star for multiple generations.

About The Author

Contributing Writer

Herbert M. Shaw began writing movie reviews for his high school newspaper and hasn't stopped since. In 2005, his radio program "The Shaw Report" was started with WCDB Albany 90.9 FM in Albany, New York, and lives on with online streaming at In addition to film and TV reviews, Herbert also covers a variety of pop culture events surrounding technology, gaming, and the arts. He has covered every single New York Comic Con since 2006, and writes an annual Oscar prediction guide.