Williams starred in four of my favorite movies: The Dead Poet's Society (1989), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), The Bird Cage (1996), and Good Will Hunting (1997). He was a brilliant comedian and actor. Was he perfect? Far from it, but no one can argue his prolific and commercially successful career. If you've seen these gems, forgive these short descriptions.
The Dead Poet's Society is famously quoted quoting Whitman in Apple iPad commercials, asking what verse we will contribute to this grand play called life. Wiliiams played the English teacher everyone should have had. "Captain, My Captain!" This story of coming of age, and the cost of conformity and loneliness, carries a deeper resonance after today. If anyone lived his dream, it was Williams, which only goes to prove that it's not the trappings of fame and fortune that make us truly happy.
In Mrs. Doubtfire, he played the ADHD-riddled father who couldn't compete with his corporate wife and her rich, new boyfriend. In cahoots with his gay brother, a Hollywood makeup artist, this spurned husband devises the perfect disguise to get close to his kids during the nasty divorce: Mrs. Doubtfire, a German matron with wit and heart. Who can forget the pot lids on the flaming EEs, or the tender response to the girl who wrote into his show because she worried she wasn't part of a family anymore after her parents separated?
The Bird Cage was another amazing performance by Williams, this time as a gay man running a night club in Miami with his partner, the incomparable Nathan Lane. When Williams' son brings his fiancee and future, ultra-conservative in-laws home, a hilarious farce of "normality" ensues. Williams and Lane are priceless as they attempt to help their son, ultimately saving the day by reverting to their true selves.
Then there was Good Will Hunting, arguably my favorite movie of all time. Williams and Matt Damon are incendiary as men who lost their innocence too soon at the hands of violent, alcoholic fathers. The scene where Williams, Damon's therapist, refuses to let him break free of a therapeutic embrace is riveting. Williams knows how hard it is to let love in once it is lost, but understands first-hand how this pain and vulnerability are essential for healing to begin. When Damon breaks down and acquiesces to this safe admission of the hurt that's been holding him back, you know he's going to be OK. Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role.
Williams once said, "You're only given a little spark of madness, you mustn't lose it." Somewhere along the way--for that fleeting moment, those brief few seconds of impulse that it takes to end your life--Williams lost his. But I choose to believe that his life, and even his death, should not be defined by that lapse. He "contributed his verse." His body of work captured many moments of authentic truth, undying love, unbridled hilarity. Robin, you are gone, but not forgotten. You're in a better place now, and I'm pretty sure you've got your madness back.