Genie, You’re Free..

It’s been a hectic day so far but I couldn’t resist taking a little time out to post a little tribute to the enormous talent that was Robin Williams, who died last night having apparently taken his own life. Robin Williams was a unique comic talent, best displayed during his legendary stand-up routines, but also demonstrated to great effect on film, especially in Good Morning Vietnam and as the voice of the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. These movies allowed him to express his remarkable spontaneous ability to connect ideas, characters and voices in a freewheeling improvised scenarios of breathtaking inventiveness; in both the films I mentioned his work was largely unscripted. In Good Morning Vietnam the cutaways to other actors while he did his bit in the radio studio clearly don’t show them acting, just cracking up as he cut loose his extraordinarily fertile imagination; and all the animators on Aladdin had to do to make a great film was to fill in images to match his free-flowing monologues, with celebrity impersonations and other funny voices thrown in for good measure.

Much has already been written about the sad circumstances of his death, and how he seems to have lost his long battle against depression. That a light that could shine so brightly has been lost to the darkness should be a cause of deep sadness, but no-one can really understand another person’s pain and it would be quite wrong to judge him selfish or weak because of the manner of his death. Instead, I shall remember him by the joy he gave – he was one of the comic actors who could reduce me to hysterics – and hope that in some way his loss might lead in some way to greater understanding of depression and other mental health problems.

The most moving tribute of many I’ve seen today on Twitter was from the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Genie in Aladdin yearned to be free, and now he is. RIP Robin Williams.


13 Responses to “Genie, You’re Free..”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I only ever saw hm in Dead Poets Society and his bit part in Branagh’s Hamlet (the whole script, a magnificent 4hr film), and thought he was great.

    • Yes, he was mainly known as a comic actor (and comedian) but also played several serious roles. I’ve seen a few, and think he was wonderful in Dead Poets’ Society (which ties in to the comments yesterday on boarding schools).

      I have fond memories of Mork and Mindy which, in contrast to many sitcoms, was genuinely funny. Much of this was improvised as well, especially after Jonathan Winters (who died a bit more than a year ago, but at a relatively ripe old age) had joined the cast.

      • Reading up on Jonathan Winters, I see that he also had his battles with mental illness, and was one of the first celebrities, if not the first celebrity, to speak publicly about it.

    • telescoper Says:

      Do watch Aladdin if you can – it’s a kids film but his contribution is utterly sublime. Here are some tasters:

  2. I am not sure that suicide should be equated with achieving freedom. It is a sad end to a gifted, troubled life. It brought back memories of Steve Rawlings, and others I have known. Depression is terrible to have and I don’t have solutions. But isn’t this presenting it as a terminal disease?

  3. The Tagesthemen, a daily, late-night news-in-depth on ARD television (very rough equivalent of BBC1), began their broadcast with a report about the death of Robin Williams, which began in a rather unorthodox manner:

  4. One of the great things about YouTube is that one can dip back into the past (something which was really not available in any form before YouTube, so this is really something new, not just a modification of something already existing, such as music videos); events like Williams’s death cause one to do so. Start here, where, on the wonderful Tonight show, Williams brings down the house with things such as Schwarzenegger as Hamlet. Enjoy!

  5. Phillip Helbig Says:

    Last Friday, the new studio album by Iron Maiden was released. (It is a double CD with just 11 songs, the longest clocking in at almost 20 minutes.) Why is that relevant here? “Of all the bands to commemorate Robin Williams, I did not expect it to be Iron Maiden.” This refers to the song “Tears of a Clown” (no relation to the song of the same name by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles). I read this in this review.

    I have known that they have existed for almost as long as they have existed (about 40 years) and was always put off by their goofy image. I had never heard anything by them at all until a couple of years ago, when by chance I stumbled upon “Journeyman” (not a typical song) on YouTube. However, the music is excellent, with the virtuosity never getting in the way of the musical idea. Lyrics are many cuts above typical heavy-metal fare, usually based on historical and/or literary themes. (I see the band much more in the tradition of 1970s hard rock than in that of most of the rest of heavy metal.*) Worth an objective listen: just close your eyes and think of England.

    Although not a fan of opera myself (and, interestingly, Bach, my favourite composer, wrote something in all genres of his time except opera), I think the proper frame of mind to listen to their music is similar to that appropriate for opera.

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