Spanish cover of the brilliant biography by Michael Feeney Callan. His books on Richard Harris and Julie Christie are also worth a read. Available: amazon.co.uk. Enlarge book cover.
© Simon & Schuster Ltd.
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Robert Redford ~ Biography (Born 1937)
"Some people have analysis. I have Utah."
- Robert Redford
Robert Redford, tall, blond and handsome, was the classic all-American screen hero and one of Hollywood's highest-paid stars. But at the peak of his acting profession, he forged a new and successful career for himself, this time in the field of direction.
With his blond hair, blue eyes and clean-cut all-American appearance, Robert Redford seemed to be perfectly cast as a star in the grand Hollywood tradition of the male romantic lead. Redford's emotional entanglements were usually subsiduary to the main plot of his films: with the exceptions of Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep, he rarely played opposite actresses of equal calibre (I mean, remember Demi Moore??). Indeed, some would argue that his only screen affair has been with Paul Newman.
The films that work best are those in which there is a quiet questioning of the stereotyped American male, and which thereby gently subvert Redford's own pretty-boy image. He has attacked the notion of the attractive athletic winner - Downhill Racer (1969), Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970), The Electric Horseman (1979) - commented on the heroic legends of the Hollywood West - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (both 1969), Jeremiah Johnson (1972) - and played the naive American caught up in somebody else's politics - The Candidate (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), All the President's Men (1976).
The cream on its way to the top
Redford's early life was not that of the well-to-do middle-class American that his appearance would seem to suggest. Born in 1937, the son of a milkman, Redford grew up in Santa Monica, California, in the shadow of the 'dream factory' itself. But he despised the movies, often shouting at the screen on visits to the cinema with his friends. Despite rebelling against the discipline of school, he won a baseball scholarship to the University of Colorado, but soon dropped out, believing there was more to life than sport.
around various European capitals, painting,
and 'loitering' in bars and cafes, he returned to
America to study art at New York's Pratt
Institute, and eventually found himself at the
American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He had
several minor roles on Broadway before the
breakthrough came - the lead part in Neil
Simon's domestic farce Barefoot in the Park.
The play, directed by Mike Nichols, had rave
reviews and Redford earned recognition for his
comic ability. With a growing reputation on
television, it was not surprising that he was
soon much sought after by Hollywood.
Skimming the heights
However, his first film, War Hunt (1962), was a second-rate, low-budget venture &bout a psychotic private in Korea. It was not a great success for either its producer, or Redford, but during the filming he met and struck up a long working relationship with the then actor Sydney Pollack - who later directed several of Redford's films. Redford's career continued with Inside Daisy Clover (1965), the film version of Gavin Lambert's novel about the machinations of Hollywood.
He then went on to make a total flop, Situation Hopeless, But Not Serious (1965); turned in a highly praised performance as Rubber Reeves, the escaped convict whose presence brings out the mercenary tendencies of his home-town folk in The Chase (1966): starred with Natalie Wood in a Tennessee Williams' small-town melodrama, This Property Is Condemned (1966): and was sued by Paramount for walking out on the Western Blue (1968) (a wise decision on his part since the completed film, starring Terence Stamp, was not a success).
In 1967 he returned to Hollywood to fulfil an obligation to film Barefoot in the Park, echoing his stage success. Redford's role as Paul Bratter, the straitlaced lawyer whose new wife (Jane Fonda) complains about his lack of spontaneity - he cannot even walk barefoot in the park - swept him to fame. Although Redford disliked Bratter's image he found a niche for himself as the fall-guy to his more active partner and he and Fonda made an effervescent duo.
Redford was subsequently offered several major roles which he turned down - including the diffident Benjamin in The Graduate (1967). It was well worth the wait for 1969 was Redford's year - he had a critical success with Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, made his long-cherished project Downhill Racer, and after Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty had all dropped out of the running he was offered what will probably remain his most memorable role. that of the Sundance Kid in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The attractive vitality of the relationship between the two heroes, and their tongue-in-cheek humour, made the film a smash hit. Newman has stated recently that everyone involved with the film knew before it was even finished that it would be huge.
Redford may not say much in the film, but his laconic,
fast-shooting Sundance Kid complemented
Newman's thoughtful Butch. The male camaraderie and slick repartee encouraged the quick
growth of buddy-buddy movies and four years
later Newman and Redford were reunited on
the screen in The Sting (1973). Once again
under the direction of George Roy Hill, it is a
witty story concerning a successful confidence
trick on a racketeer. It was another hit.
Robert Redford, Havana
How the West was
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made Redford a valuable property and enabled him to pick and choose his parts. Having deserted Hollywood for the mountains of Utah and a commitment to ecological preservation, many of his films comment on the values he left behind, with a recurrent theme being the false heroics of the Western. Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, with Abraham Polonsky making a return to direction after years on the blacklist, tackles the treatment of the American Indians. Redford was originally offered the part of Willie Boy - the Palute Indian who kills a chief while claiming his bride and finds himself hunted as a renegade - but, feeling that Indian roles should be played by Indians, he opted for the role of Sheriff Cope who learns to respect the Indian traditions.
Jeremiah Johnson, a legendary story of a lone trapper who braves the elements to live his own life in the mountains, is another film that challenges Hollywood's heroic notions. Redford's Johnson is neither braver nor wiser than others: he is simply more determined to live free from interference.
In a totally different setting, the wealthy Twenties as depicted by Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby (1974), Redford portrays another loner who rejects 'modern' society's materialism. However, the film failed because it was one of the few Redford films that indulged itself as a love story.
Redford has expressed his dislike of the born competitor who smiles as he clocks up the wins and the girls:
'What about the athlete who is a creep? We
do tend to tolerate creeps if they win. They can
behave any way so just forget that swell guy
whom everyone loves and who came second.'
With 20,000 feet of unofficial footage from the Grenoble Winter Olympics, and after a two-year struggle, Redford was finally able to embody these views in Downhill Racer - a couple of seasons in the life of David Chappellet, a skier who is only admired so long as he keeps winning. That Redford's looks made it difficult to believe Chappellet is such a jerk emphasizes the very point the film is trying to make. Little Fauss and Big Halsy develops the same theme, this time on the motorcycle racetrack. The misguided admiration that Fauss (Michael J. Pollard) holds for his more confident fellow competitor Halsy (Redford) leads only to disillusionment. However, the most revealing image of the American athletic winner is in The Electric Horseman; the drunken, ex-rodeo champion rides out of town on the prize horse he has rescued from the breakfast-cereal company he publicizes. All that can be seen of him against the night is his illuminated outline - a visual indication of the hollowness of that kind of success.
A man for the people
Several of Redford's films have examined the manipulations and threats of modern politics: in The Way We Were, the McCarthy witchhunt is the cause of the break-up of a young Hollywood couple's marriage when the wife Katie (Barbra Streisand) becomes involved in the campaign against the blacklist; The Candidate looks at competition in the electoral fight as a certain-to-loose well-intentioned contender (Redford) becomes seduced by the political arena; Three Days of the Condor is a spy thriller about a desk-worker for the CIA who, on returning to his office, finds all his colleagues shot dead, possibly by his own side: Brubaker (1980) investigates the clash of interests between a prison governor bent on reform and the corrupt local businessmen and politicians.
But undoubtedly Redford's major intervention into political film is All the President's Men. He had negotiated a film deal with Woodward and Bernstein even before the book of the Watergate cover-up investigation had been written. He then spent a long time researching the journalistic background by talking to the reporters and staff of the Washington Post. The resulting film - with Dustin Hoffman and Redford as the two intrepid reporters - is a strong indictment of power politics and the distortions which ensue.
Bridging the gap
Redford broke with tradition for two more romantic movies. In Out of Africa (1985), once again directed by Sidney Pollack, he played an Englishman gripped by the beauty of Africa and by the love of Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep). A beautifully photographed film, it reflects all of Redford's personal concerns with the environment and the freedom of the individual. Then in 1986 he added his lustre to the otherwise tepid Legal Eagles.
In 1981, he won an Academy Award - not for acting, however, but for the direction of Ordinary People (1980), a highly emotional and perceptive study of family tensions based upon the guilt that the son Conrad (Timothy Hutton) feels over his brother's drowning. Starring Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland, the film was a commercial and a critical success and led to his second film as director - The Milagro Beanfield War (1987).
After four years offscreen Redford made a starring "comeback" in Havana (1990), a romantic drama with Casablanca pretensions, but it was a costly flop, in spite of good personal reviews. It was one of his few outright failures with longtime collaborator Sydney Pollack.
In 1992 he made a conscious decision to put his career back in high gear, and enjoyed great success on every front. Sneakers proved he had lost none of his star power (or his light comedy touch); A River Runs Through It revealed his strengths as a director; and Incident at Oglala which he executive-produced and narrated, reaffirmed his social commitment. Then in 1993 he defined charisma (and box-office clout) as the sexy millionaire who offers Demi Moore a million dollars to sleep with him, in the smash hit Indecent Proposal. He earned Oscar nominations for directing and coproducing the intelligent, superbly crafted Quiz Show (1994).
He is the founder of 'The Sundance Film Festival'. Was married to Lola Van Wagenen from 1958 until their divorce in 1985. They had 4 children. Currently dating German painter Sibylle Szaggars.
Redford and Paul Newman were in talks about performing together again in the years before Newman passed away.
Robert Redford ~ Photo Gallery
A few photos from a career. And what a career! Even if you had a 1000 more photos it still wouldn't be enough to do it justice.
Robert Redford ~ Film Poster Gallery
You won't be surprised to know but the company with the most varied of Robert Redford repro. film posters is amazon. There are a vast array of his posters there - far, far more than here.
They come in various sizes and usually work out to be less than $10 per poster which I don't think is too bad. You get an unusual and beautiful item to hang on your walls and I bet your friends won't have it.
Here, occasionally, you will find an original poster from the time of the release of the movie. They are obviously far more expensive but if you have the money they are worth it as they are works of art in their own right.
Robert Redford Film Posters available @ amazon.com.
Robert Redford Film Posters available @ amazon.com.
Robert Redford: Biography >> Gallery >> Film Poster Gallery >> Japanese Screen Calendar 1981 Incl. Redford Fully Scanned >> Robert Redford 1970s Japanese Sticker Sheet >> Iceman Cometh Dvd >> Robert Redford autographs, photographs and more @ ebay.com (direct link to photographs) - just checked and a bigger selection than i have seen everywhere else >> Advertise >> Robert Redford Books and Dvds available @ amazon.com