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Monday, May 25, 2015

Video Beaverhausen: Charly (1968)

Cliff Robertson won his Best Actor Oscar for the movie Charly. Based on the Daniel Keyes novella, Flowers for Algernon, it is the story of a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experiment that transforms him into a genius -- but with tragic consequences. Robertson was in the orginal tv production of this in the early '60s, known as "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon."

The actor, who at that point was best known for having played JFK in PT 109, excelled in portraying conflicted or troubled characters. His star debut was opposite Joan Crawford, as her much younger but deranged husband, in Autumn Leaves.

Charly was released near the start of my senior year in high school. I was so moved by this film, I spelled my name "Charly" throughout the semester. (In my adolescent brain, I thought I'd be distinguishing or "individualizing" myself that way.)

I saw the film in NJ at Cinema 54 (off Route 54) in Totowa. The theater was up a steep hill and you had to have a car to get there, even though it was an indoor theater.

Cliff Robertson portrays a mentally challenged individual with heartbreaking sensitivity and empathy. His development into an egomaniacal genius and then back again is nothing short of brilliant.

Claire Bloom portrays his tragic love interest beautifully. And Lilia Skala shines.

Filled with very late-1960s style with a few psychedelic touches here and there, it is in essence -- thanks to the Stirling Siliphant screenplay largely -- at its heart a romantic (in the 19th Century sense)  film and a great love story.

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