Charly (1968): Cliff Robertson Best Actor Oscar

Cinerama (American Broadcasting Companies-Selmur Pictures)

0wb0xpbg5vmBased on the popular novel, “Flowers for Algernon,” Charly is a poignant tale about a mentally retarded adult who undergoes brain surgery and blossoms into a genius only to learn that he is doomed to regress to his moronic state.

Adapted to the screen by vet scribe Stirling Silliphant, “Charly is directed in a pedestrian mode by Ralph Nelson (his earlier film, Lilies of the Field,” starring Sidney Poitier, is a better work). Actor Cliff Robertson, who originated the part on TV, fell in love with the role and paid with his own money for the screen rights. After years of trying to set the picture at various studios, he persuaded an independent company, Selmur Productions, to make it on the big-screen as a star vehicle for him.

The risk, both financial and artistic, paid off, and Cliff Robertson won the Best Actor Oscar, beating out Alan Arkin in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” Alan Bates in “The Fixer,” Ron Moody in the musical “Oliver!” (Which won the Best Picture), and Peter O’Toole in “The Lion in Winter.”

The graceful British actress Claire Bloom plays the sensitive, helpful teacher, with whom Charly falls in love.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Actor: Cliff Robertson

Oscar Awards: 1

Best Actor

Oscar Context

The pre-Oscar polls predicted that Peter O’Toole would be the winner, partly for his good acting and partly as compensation for having lost the Oscar in 1962 for “Lawrence of Arabia,” and in 1964 for “Becket.”

Anticipating a loss, Cliff Robertson didn’t attend the Oscar ceremonies on April 14, 1969.

The other three nominees were: Alan Arkin in “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” Alan Bates in “The Fixer,” and Ron Moody in “Oliver1”, which won Best Picture and Best Director.