Jason Robards

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Jason Robards
Jason Robards-1968-1.jpg
BornJason Nelson Robards, Jr.
(1922-07-26)July 26, 1922
Chicago, Illinois, US
DiedDecember 26, 2000(2000-12-26) (aged 78)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
Cause of death
lung cancer
Years active1951–2000
Known forPlaying Historical Figures,
Eugene O'Neill
Spouse(s)Eleanor Pittman
(m.1948–1958; divorced)
Rachel Taylor
(m.1959–1961; divorced)
Lauren Bacall
(m.1961–1969; divorced)
Lois O'Connor
(m.1970–2000; his death)
ChildrenSix, including Sam Robards
ParentsJason Robards, Sr.,
Hope Maxine (nee Glanville) (1895–1992)
AwardsSee Awards
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For his father, an actor uniformly credited as "Jason Robards", see Jason Robards, Sr..
Jason Robards
Jason Robards-1968-1.jpg
BornJason Nelson Robards, Jr.
(1922-07-26)July 26, 1922
Chicago, Illinois, US
DiedDecember 26, 2000(2000-12-26) (aged 78)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
Cause of death
lung cancer
Years active1951–2000
Known forPlaying Historical Figures,
Eugene O'Neill
Spouse(s)Eleanor Pittman
(m.1948–1958; divorced)
Rachel Taylor
(m.1959–1961; divorced)
Lauren Bacall
(m.1961–1969; divorced)
Lois O'Connor
(m.1970–2000; his death)
ChildrenSix, including Sam Robards
ParentsJason Robards, Sr.,
Hope Maxine (nee Glanville) (1895–1992)
AwardsSee Awards

Jason Nelson Robards, Jr. (July 26, 1922 – December 26, 2000) was an American actor on stage, and in film and television. He was a winner of the Tony Award, two Academy Awards and the Emmy Award. He was also a United States Navy combat veteran of World War II.

He became famous playing works of American playwright Eugene O'Neill and regularly performed in O'Neill's works throughout his career. Robards was cast in both common-man roles and as well-known historical figures.

Early life and education[edit]

Robards was born in Chicago, the son of Hope Maxine (née Glanville) Robards and Jason Robards, Sr.,[1] an actor who regularly appeared on the stage and in such early films as The Gamblers (1929). Robards was of English, Welsh, Irish, and Swedish descent.[2][3]

The family moved to New York City, when Jason Jr. was still a toddler, and then moved to Los Angeles when he was six years old. Later interviews with Robards suggested that the trauma of his parents' divorce, which occurred during his grade-school years, greatly affected his personality and worldview.

As a youth, Robards also witnessed first-hand the decline of his father's acting career. The elder Robards had enjoyed considerable success during the era of silent films, but he fell out of favor after the advent of "talkies" (sound film), leaving the younger Robards soured on the Hollywood film industry.

The teenage Robards excelled in athletics, running a 4:18-mile during his junior year at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles. Although his prowess in sports attracted interest from several universities, Robards decided to join the Navy upon his graduation in 1940.

Naval service in World War II[edit]

As a radioman 3rd class in the Navy, Robards served aboard a heavy cruiser, the USS Northampton (CA-26) in 1941. On December 7, 1941, he was aboard the Northampton in the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles (160 km) off Hawaii. Contrary to some stories, he witnessed the devastation of the Japanese attack on Hawaii only afterwards, when the Northampton returned to Pearl Harbor two days later.[4] The Northampton was later directed into the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II's Pacific theater, where she participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

During the Battle of Tassafaronga on Guadalcanal on the night of November 30, 1942, the Northampton was sunk by hits from two Japanese torpedoes. Robards found himself treading water until near daybreak, when he was rescued by an American destroyer. For its service in the war the Northampton was awarded six battle stars.

Two years later, in November 1944, Robards was radioman on the USS Nashville (CL-43), the flagship for the invasion of Mindoro in the northern Philippines. On December 13, she was struck by a kamikaze aircraft off Negros Island in the Philippines. The aircraft hit one of the port five-inch gun mounts, while its two bombs set the midsection ablaze. There were 223 casualties, and the Nashville was forced to return to Pearl Harbor and then to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for repairs.

Robards served honorably during the war, but was not a recipient of the U.S. Navy Cross for bravery, as has been recorded in numerous uncited resources. The inaccurate story that he was a Navy Cross recipient derives from a 1979 column by Hy Gardner[5] which stated that Robards was awarded the medal. From this false story, many subsequent references repeated the inaccuracy. But Robards's name does not appear on any official or semi-official rolls of Navy Cross recipients.[6]

It was on the Nashville that Robards first found a copy of Eugene O’Neill's play Strange Interlude in the ship's library.[7][8] It was also in the Navy that he first started thinking seriously about becoming an actor. He had emceed for a Navy band in Pearl Harbor, got a few laughs and decided he liked it. His father suggested he enroll in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.[7]


Robards decided to get into acting after the war and his career started out slowly. He moved to New York City and found small parts – first in radio and then on the stage. His big break was landing the starring role in José Quintero's 1956 off-Broadway-theatre revival production and the later 1960 television film of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, portraying the philosophical salesman Hickey; he won an Obie Award for his stage performance. He later portrayed Hickey again in another 1985 Broadway revival also staged by Quintero. Robards also created the role of Jamie Tyrone in the original Broadway production of O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Long Day's Journey into Night, which was also directed by Quintero; Robards appeared in the lead role of James Tyrone, Sr. in a 1988 production of the same play. Other O'Neill plays directed by Quintero and featuring Robards included Hughie (1964), A Touch of the Poet (1977) and A Moon for the Misbegotten (1973). He repeated his role in Long Day's Journey into Night in the 1962 film and televised his performances in A Moon for the Misbegotten (1975) and Hughie (1984).

Robards also appeared onstage in a revival of O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! (1988) directed by Arvin Brown, as well as Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic (1960), Arthur Miller's After the Fall (1964), Clifford Odets's The Country Girl (1972) and Harold Pinter's No Man's Land (1994).

Publicity photo, 1975

He made his film debut in the two-reel comedy Follow That Music (1947), but after his Broadway success he was invited to make his feature debut in The Journey (1959). He became a familiar face to movie audiences throughout the 1960s, notably for his performances in A Thousand Clowns (1965) (repeating his stage performance), The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).

He appeared on television anthology series, including two segments in the mid-1950s of CBS's Appointment with Adventure.

Robards played three different U.S. presidents in film. He played the role of Abraham Lincoln in the TV movie The Perfect Tribute (1991) and supplied the voice for two television documentaries, first for "The Presidency: A Splendid Misery" in 1964, and then again in the title role of the 1992 documentary miniseries Lincoln. He also played the role of Ulysses S. Grant in The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981) and supplied the Union General's voice in the PBS miniseries The Civil War (1990). He also played Franklin D. Roosevelt in FDR: The Final Years (1980).

Robards appeared in two dramatizations based on the Watergate scandal. In 1976 he portrayed Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee in the film All the President's Men, based on the book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. The next year, he played fictional president Richard Monckton (based on Richard Nixon) in the 1977 television miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors based on John Ehrlichman's roman à clef The Company. In 1983, Robards starred in the television movie The Day After where he played Dr. Russell Oakes. The movie is one of the most viewed television programs of all time.

Robards voiced a number of documentaries, including Ken Burns's Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1991).

In Magnolia (1999), his final feature film role, the ailing Robards portrayed a dying man who reconnects with his estranged son.


Robards received eight Tony Award nominations,[9] – more than any other male actor as of October 2009. He won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his work in The Disenchanted, (1959); this was also his only stage appearance with his father.

He received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in consecutive years: for All the President's Men (1976), portraying Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, and for Julia (1977), portraying writer Dashiell Hammett (1977).[10] He was also nominated for another Academy Award for his role as Howard Hughes in Melvin and Howard (1980).

Robards received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie for Inherit the Wind (1988).[11]

In 1997, Robards received the U.S. National Medal of Arts, the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Recipients are selected by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts and the medal is awarded by the President of the United States.

In 1999, he was among the recipients at the Kennedy Center Honors, an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture.[12]

In 2000, Robards received the 1st Monte Cristo Award, presented by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, and named after O'Neill's home. Subsequent recipients have included Edward Albee, Kevin Spacey, Wendy Wasserstein, and Christopher Plummer.

Jason Robards narrated the public radio documentary, Schizophrenia: Voices of an Illness, produced by Lichtenstein Creative Media, which was awarded a 1994 George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting. According to Time Magazine, Robards offered to narrate the schizophrenia program, saying that his first wife had been institutionalized for that illness.[13]

Jason Robards is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 1979.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

around 1975

Robards had six children from his four marriages, including actor Jason Robards III (born 1949) by his first wife, Eleanor Pittman; and actor Sam Robards by his third wife, actress Lauren Bacall, to whom he was married in 1961. They divorced in 1969, in significant part because of his alcoholism.[16]

In 1972 he was seriously injured in an automobile accident when he drove his car into the side of a mountain on a winding California road, requiring extensive surgery and facial reconstruction. The accident may have been related to his lifelong struggle with alcoholism.[7][8]

Robards was a U.S. Civil War buff and scholar, an interest which informed his portrayal of the voice of Ulysses S. Grant in The Civil War series by filmmaker Ken Burns.


Robards was a resident of the Southport section of Fairfield, Connecticut.[17] He died of lung cancer in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on December 26, 2000 at the age of 78. He was cremated.

His death was mourned by both fans and actors. "He was the last of a breed of actors who dedicated themselves to a life in the theater. Without asking for the role, he was our elder statesman," said actor Kevin Spacey.[18]


The Jason Robards Award was created by the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City in his honor and his relationship with the theatre.



Robards in Toys in the Attic (1960)
November 7, 1956 – March 29, 1958Long Day's Journey into NightJames Tyrone, Jr.Theatre World Award
Nominated-Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play
December 3, 1958 – May 16, 1959The DisenchantedManley HallidayTony Award for Best Actor in a Play
February 25, 1960 – April 8, 1961Toys in the AtticJulian BerniersNominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
March 15, 1961 – June 10, 1961Big Fish, Little FishWilliam Baker
April 5, 1962 – April 13, 1963A Thousand ClownsMurray Burns
January 23, 1964 – May 29, 1965After the FallQuentinNominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
March 12, 1964 – July 2, 1964But for Whom CharlieSeymour Rosenthal
December 22, 1964 – January 30, 1965Hughie"Erie" SmithNominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
November 16, 1965 – January 22, 1966The DevilsUrbain Grandier
October 16, 1968 – December 29, 1968We Bombed in New HavenCaptain Starkey
March 15, 1972 – May 6, 1972The Country GirlFrank ElginNominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
December 29, 1973 – November 17, 1974A Moon for the MisbegottenJames Tyrone, Jr.Nominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
December 28, 1977 – April 30, 1978A Touch of the PoetCornelius MelodyNominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
April 4, 1983 – January 1, 1984You Can't Take It with YouMartin Vanderhof
September 29, 1985 – December 1, 1985The Iceman ComethTheodore Hickman "Hickey"
April 16, 1987 – April 18, 1987A Month of Sundays (play)Cooper
June 23, 1988 – July 23, 1988Ah, Wilderness!Nat Miller
June 14, 1988 – July 23, 1988Long Day's Journey into NightJames Tyrone
October 31, 1989 – January 21, 1990Love LettersAndrew Makepiece Ladd III
November 17, 1991 – February 22, 1992Park Your Car in Harvard YardJacob Brackish
January 27, 1994 – March 20, 1994No Man's LandHirst

Source: "Jason Robards, Jr.". Playbill Vault. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 


1959The JourneyPaul Kedes
1961By Love PossessedJulius Penrose
1962Tender Is the NightDr. Richard "Dick" Diver
Long Day's Journey into NightJamie TyroneBest Actor Award
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
1963Act OneGeorge S. Kaufman
1965A Thousand ClownsMurray BurnsNominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1966A Big Hand for the Little LadyHenry Drummond
Any WednesdayJohn Cleves
1967Divorce American StyleNelson Downes
The St. Valentine's Day MassacreAl Capone
Hour of the GunDoc Holliday
1968Once Upon a Time in the WestCheyenne
The Night They Raided Minsky'sRaymond Paine
1970Rosolino Paternò, soldato…Sam Armstrong
The Ballad of Cable HogueCable Hogue
Julius CaesarMarcus Brutus
Tora! Tora! Tora!Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short
FoolsMatthew South
1971Johnny Got His GunJoe's Father
Murders in the Rue MorgueCesar Charron
1972The War Between Men and WomenStephen Kozlenko
1973Pat Garrett & Billy the KidGovernor Wallace
1975A Boy and His DogLou Craddock
Mr. SycamoreJohn Gwilt
1976All the President's MenBen BradleeAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
The Spy Who Never WasInspector Barkan
1977JuliaHammettAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1978Comes a HorsemanJacob "J.W." Ewing
1979HurricaneCaptain Bruckner
1980Cabo BlancoGunther Beckdorff
Raise the TitanicAdmiral James Sandecker
Melvin and HowardHoward HughesBoston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor (3rd place)
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (2nd place)
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1981The Legend of the Lone RangerUlysses S. Grant
1983Max Dugan ReturnsMax Dugan
Something Wicked This Way ComesCharles Halloway
The Day AfterDr. Russell Oakes
1987Square DanceDillard
1988The Good MotherMuth
Bright Lights, Big CityMr. Hardyuncredited
1989Dream a Little DreamColeman Ettinger
ReunionHarry Strauss
ParenthoodFrank Buckman
Black RainbowWalter Travis
1990Quick ChangeChief Rotzinger
StoryvilleClifford Fowler
1993The Adventures of Huck FinnThe King
The TrialDoctor Huld
PhiladelphiaCharles Wheeler
1994The PaperGraham Keighley
Little Big LeagueThomas Heywood
1995Crimson TideRear Admiral Andersonuncredited
1997A Thousand AcresLarry Cook
1998HeartwoodLogan Reeser
The Real MacawGrandpa Girdis
BelovedMr. Bodwin
Enemy of the StateCongressman Phillip Hammersleyuncredited
1999MagnoliaEarl PartridgeFlorida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cast
Nominated-Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture


1951–1954The Big StoryMr. Simms
Aaron Dudley
episode: Arthur Mielke of the Washington Times Herald
episode: Aaron Dudley, Reporter
1955The Philco Television PlayhouseMason
Joe Grant
episode: The Outsiders
episode: The Death of Billy the Kid
1955–1956Armstrong Circle TheatrePaul Foster
Reinhardt Schmidt
episode: Man in Shadow
episode: Lost $2 Billion: The Story of Hurricane Diane
JusticeKarderepisode: Pattern of Lies
episode: Decision by Panic
1956–1957The Alcoa HourJayson
Bert Palmer
episode: Night
episode: The Big Build-Up
episode: Even the Weariest River
1955–1957Studio One in HollywoodPrisoner
Leonard O'Brien
episode: Twenty-Four Hours
episode: The Incredible World of Horace Ford
episode: A Picture in the Paper
1958OmnibusPrime Ministerepisode: Moment of Truth
1959Playhouse 90Robert Jordanepisode: For Whom the Bell Tolls: Part 2
NBC Sunday ShowcaseAlex Reedepisode: People Kill People Sometimes
A Doll's House (TV movie)Dr. Rank
1960Dow Hour of Great MysteriesDetective Andersonepisode: The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Play of the WeekTheodore 'Hickey' Hickmanepisode: The Iceman Cometh
1962Westinghouse Presents: That's Where the Town is Going (TV movie)Hobart Cramm
1964Abe Lincoln in Illinois (TV movie)Abraham LincolnNominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
1963–1966Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler TheatreIrish LaFontain
Ivan Denisovich
episode: Shipwrecked
episode: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
1966ABC Stage 67Royal Earle Thompsonepisode: Noon Wine
1969Spoon River (TV movie)Reader
1972Circle of FearElliot Brentepisode: The Dead We Leave Behind
The House Without a Christmas Tree (TV movie)Jamie Mills
1973The Thanksgiving Treasure (TV movie)James Mills
1974The Country GirlFrank Elgin
1975The Easter Promise (TV movie)Jamie
A Moon for the MisbegottenJames Tyrone Jr.Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Special Program – Drama or Comedy
1976Addie and the King of Hearts (TV movie)Jamie Mills
1977Washington: Behind Closed Doors (TV miniseries)President Richard Monckton6 episodes
Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series
1978A Christmas to Remember (TV movie)Daniel Larson
1980F.D.R.: The Last Year (TV movie)President Franklin D. RooseveltNominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special
Haywire (TV movie)Leland Hayward
1983The Day AfterDr. Russell Oakes
1984American PlayhouseErie Smithepisode: Hughie
Sakharov (TV movie)Andrei SakharovNominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Great PerformancesGrandpa Martin Vanderhofepisode: You Can't Take It with You
1985The Atlanta Child MurdersAlvin Binder
The Long Hot SummerWill Varner
1986Johnny Bull (TV movie)Stephen Kovacs
The Last FrontierEd Stenning
1987Laguna Heat (TV movie)Wade Shepard
Breaking Home TiesLloyd
1988Inherit the WindHenry DrummondPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special
The Christmas Wife (TV movie)John Tanner
Thomas Hart Benton (TV movie)Narrator
1990The Civil WarUlysses S. Grant9 episodes
1991The Perfect TributeAbraham Lincoln
Chernobyl: The Final WarningDr. Armand Hammer
An Inconvenient WomanJules Mendelson
American MastersNarratorepisode: Helen Hayes: The First Lady of the American Theatre
On the WaterwaysNarrator13 episodes
Mark Twain and Me (TV movie)Mark TwainNominated- CableACE Award for Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
1992Lincoln (TV movie)Abraham Lincoln(voice)
1994The Enemy WithinGeneral R. Pendleton Lloyd
1995My AntoniaJosea Burden
1996–1997The American ExperienceNarratorepisode: Truman: Part I
episode: T.R.: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt (Part I)
2000Going HomeCharles Barton

Source: "Jason Robards". IMDb. Retrieved October 22, 2013. 


  1. ^ Jason Robards genealogy.
  2. ^ http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70717F8385F107A93C2AB178AD85F408785F9
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Bloomfield, Gary L.; Shain, Stacie L., with Davidson, Arlen C., (2004). Duty, Honor, Applause – America's Entertainers in World War II. p. 264. Lyon's Press, Guilford, Connecticut. ISBN 1-59228-550-3
  5. ^ Gardner, Hy. Panorama magazine, Vol. II, No. 1, Sunday Daily Herald, January 7, 1979, p. 2
  6. ^ Sterner, C. Douglas. Index: Recipients of the Navy Cross, All Wars/All Periods, All Branches of Service. Pueblo CO, 2006
  7. ^ a b c The New York Times Magazine, January 20, 1974
  8. ^ a b Black, Steven A., et al. (editors) (2002). Jason Robards Remembered – Essays and Recollections. McFarland & Co., Jefferson, North Carolina. ISBN 978-0-7864-1356-0.
  9. ^ "American Theatre Wing".
  10. ^ "Oscars data base of nominees and winners".
  11. ^ "Emmy Awards Database of nominees and winners".
  12. ^ "Kennedy Center list of Honorees".
  13. ^ [2] Time Magazine "The Souls that Drugs Saved," October 10, 1994.
  14. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame members". 
  15. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Enshrines 51 Artists". New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ Bacall, Lauren. (2006). By Myself and Then Some. p. 377. HarperCollins, New York City. ISBN 978-0-06-112791-5.
  17. ^ "From the Archives" feature ("The Week of July 8") of The Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), July 9, 2007, page A7, Stamford edition.
  18. ^ The New York Times, February 27, 2001

External links[edit]