Jason Robards

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Jason Robards, Jr. (July 26, 1922December 26, 2000) was an American actor whose wizened, iconic quality kept him in the forefront of the acting profession for nearly fifty years. He made his name playing in the works of American dramatist Eugene O'Neill, and would regularly return to O'Neill's works throughout his career. Robards' versatility was such that he was cast to equal effect in common-man roles and as well-known historical figures.

Childhood

Christened Jason Nelson Robards Jr. in Chicago, his father Jason Robards, Sr. was among the better-known actors of the first half of the twentieth century, starring regularly on the stage and in such early films as The Gamblers (1929). The family moved to New York City when young Jason was still a toddler, and then moved for good to Los Angeles when he was six years old.

Later interviews with Robards suggested that the trauma of his parents' divorce, (which occurred during his grade-school years) left an indelible mark on his personality and worldview. Jason as a youth also witnessed firsthand the decline of his father's acting career; the elder Robards had enjoyed considerable success during the era of silent films, but he fell out of favor after the advent of "talkies," leaving Jason, Jr. soured on the Hollywood film industry.

The teenaged Robards excelled in athletics, running a 4:18 mile during his junior year at Hollywood High School. Although his prowess in sports attracted overtures from several universities, upon his graduation in 1940 Robards decided to join the U.S. Navy.

Naval service in World War II

Serving as a radio operator, Robards was assigned to the USS Northampton, a heavy cruiser homeported at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Although he is often referred to as a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941 Northampton was at sea with the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise; the two ships returned to Pearl Harbor the following day. However, Robards would indeed see considerable action in the Pacific theater of World War II, initially during the engagements at Wake Island and Midway. Northampton was later directed into the Guadalcanal campaign, where it was involved in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

During the Battle of Tassafaronga on the night of November 30, 1942, Northampton was sunk by hits from two Japanese torpedoes. Robards found himself treading water until near daybreak, when he was rescued by an American destroyer. He was awarded the Navy Cross for valor during this battle. He would remain in the Navy through the end of the war, serving on the light cruiser USS Honolulu, and was discharged in 1947.

Early acting career

Robards decided to get into acting after the war. His career started out slowly. He moved to New York City and found small parts there, first in radio and then the stage. His big break came in the starring role of The Iceman Cometh.

Awards and honors

Robards won the 1959 Tony Award for Best Actor for The Disenchanted. He received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in consecutive years for All the President's Men (1976) and Julia (1977). He was also nominated for another Oscar for his role in Melvin and Howard (1980) and received the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special for the 1988 production of Inherit the Wind.

He had 6 children from his four marriages, including actor Sam Robards by his third wife, actress Lauren Bacall, whom he married in 1961 and from whom he was divorced in 1969.

He was among the recipients at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999, a year before his death from lung cancer at the age of 78 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

List of credits

Broadway Theatre

Film

Films for Television

References

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