“Why do they have to mess with things that were perfect the first time around?”
Charles Robert Redford, Jr was born on this day in Van Nuys, California in 1936. He is 76 years old.
Redford had a comfortable upbringing — his father was an accountant for Standard Oil –but he had a rebellious streak. He did well in sports and played football and tennis for Van Nuys High School. But he was more interested in what was going on outside the classroom than in what was on the syllabus. He got into trouble for drinking and stealing hub caps. He was good enough at baseball to get a scholarship the University of Colorado, but he lost it because of his drinking. He dropped out of college and went to Europe to pursue painting.
When he returned to the US he met Lola Van Wagenan in New York and the two were married. Redford studied art at the Pratt Institute and then switched to acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1959 he landed his first small role on Broadway in Tall Story. The Little Moon of Alban followed, and then came his breakthrough role in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park opposite Elizabeth Ashley. Park was Simon’s longest running Broadway show and Redford revised his role as Paul for the 1967 movie (this time opposite Jane Fonda.)
1962’s War Hunt marked Redford’s film debut. The movie tells about a new recruit (Redford) and a war weary psychotic killer named Private Endore (John Saxon). It was well received both at the box office and by the critics, and was named one of the ten best films in 1962 by the National Board of Review. One of Redford’s co-stars, Sydney Pollack went on to direct him in This Property is Condemned, Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were, Three Days of the Condor, The Electric Horseman, Havana, and Out of Africa.
The late 50’s and 1960’s also brought a number of television appearances in shows like Playhouse 90, the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
He was a solid actor with a very pretty face. After several successful, movies where was a dashing blond guy in a suit, he turned down roles in The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf to avoid being typecast. He opted instead for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where he played gritty, lovable, outlaw. The movie co-starred Paul Newman. Newman and Redford hit gold again with The Sting a few years later.
After the box office hits of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Jeremiah Johnson and the Way We Were Redford could pick and choose his film projects. Some notables (not already mentioned) are: All the President’s Men, The Natural, and (the voice over for )A River Runs Through It.
Ordinary People was Redford’s directorial debut. (He did the unimaginable and made Mary Tyler Moore come off as a bitch). Redford won the Best Director Oscar. He hit directorial pay dirt with River, Quiz Show and The HorseWhisperer. In 2011 he directed The Conspirator.
He founded the Sundance Institute in 1981 to promote independent film making. The Sundance Film Festival soon followed.