Good Morning, Vietnam! is not only one of the most popular phrases in all of cinema but it’s also one of the first things I would blurt into a microphone, if I had the opportunity.
It’s hard to know where to begin with Robin Williams. From his philanthropy to a genuine love of making audiences laugh and taking on roles in films that would prove to shape us, Williams’ death cast a shadow on the world.
After his career as a respected stand-up comedian, Williams began entertaining people on television as the wacky alien Mork on Mork and Mindy and finally began a career on the big screen. Williams’ humour was intellectual and frequently improvised, which no doubt contributed to what made classic cinema roles like his in Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, and Flubber so iconic. The “King of Comedy” also lent his voice to several animated films and gave life to memorable characters in Aladdin, Robots, and the Happy Feet franchise. Even on TV his talent had no bounds, and Williams’ stood out from the rest.
Williams’ acting abilities also shone in many dramatic films, earning him numerous accolades and awards. The critically acclaimed Good Will Hunting earned Williams an Academy Award and his performances in Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, and What Dreams May Come proved how versatile Williams was.
Outside of his film career, Williams was also a philanthropist and aimed to look after others’ needs before his own. Williams visited the Middle East with the United Service Organizations and entertained American troops located in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Baghdad. He supported various charities such as Amnesty International, Dogs Deserve Better, UNICEF, and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Williams was a part of the “America: A Tribute to Heroes” charity telethon for the victims of 9/11 and paid his late lifelong friend Christopher Reeve a visit in the hospital after his accident, prompting Reeve to state in an interview that seeing Williams was the first thing to cheer him up since his paralysis.
Christopher Antilope, a third-year student at UTM majoring in English and theology, had the good fortune of working with Williams in 2002 on the set of Death to Smoochy. He witnessed Williams’ selflessness and care for others on set, specifically when he brought an air conditioning tube to the children’s waiting area to cool them down on a warm day while they waited to be called back on set for an upcoming scene. Antilope also remembers Williams’ demeanour in front of the children during one scene: “It was an inappropriate scene for a child my age, but with Robin’s improvisation skills, he was able to make the phallic jokes lighter for the kids, or so extreme that it would just go over our innocent heads.”
Williams had an impact on everyone’s lives; Billy Crystal said it best when he called Williams “the brightest star in our comedy galaxy”. He touched countless lives despite fighting his own battles, making it safe to say that he held a special place in our hearts. So join me as I stand on top of my table and say, “O captain! My captain!” and honour a marvellous human being.
Farewell, Robin Williams. We thank you and we will miss you.