Ray D. Tutto

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Sad news about Robin Williams. Mourning people you’ve never met is silly, but it turns out a couple of people I know crossed paths with Mr. Williams and had nothing but good things to say about him. I feel sad for them.

Richard Lester wanted to cast Williams as his Stalin look-alike in RED MONARCH, a near-silent comedy that never got made. Williams took about a year off work to clear room in his schedule while Lester tried to get the funding together.

A couple of my favourite Williams performances are ones he took no credit for. In THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN he was a last minute replacement for Sean Connery (!) who dropped out either because the schedule changed or because he heard how chaotic the shoot was. His pseudonym in that is a pun on “King of Everything,” which is what the character claims to be. Williams also excelled at creepy roles — if one has a criticism of his work, it’s that his unashamed warmth could lead him down the path of schmaltz if the material or the director encouraged it, but it seemed to be a kind of relief to find nasty characters — he plunged in without a trace of apology. His cold and bitter defrocked hypnotherapist in DEAD AGAIN is a still, true portrait amid a posse of showboaters.

Though he didn’t want these bit parts used to publicise his work, they fed into his career handily — the collaboration on MUNCHAUSEN led to Terry Gilliam getting THE FISHER KING, and DEAD AGAIN led to HAMLET with Branagh and all those roles where Williams shrugged off the funnyman persona for repressed or creepy studies in minimalism.

9 Responses to “Ray D. Tutto”

  1. He was fantastic in One Hour Photo.

  2. His turn in “Munchausen” is one of my favorites, and about ten of the funniest minutes ever committed to film. Not sorry I passed up “Patch Adams” or “Doubtfire,” won’t let his paycheck work sully the memory of perhaps the only comic ever who could occupy the same room as Jonathan Winters.

  3. Mrs Doubtfire is…not that bad. I always like to see Pierce Brosnan in comedy, even as the schnook. It’s not very sharp, but what edge it has comes from Williams.

    I’ve never quite brought myself to watch Being Human. Always been curious yet wary, and then I get bored within a few minutes. Maybe now is the time to try. Working with Bill Forsyth gave Williams the accent for Mrs D, another example of how his various modes fed into each other. Maybe we wouldn’t have had Good Will Hunting without Jack.

  4. I loved Being Human but your mileage may vary. The Roman episode, especially, was one I had some had trouble with. To me, though, it’s some kind of strange masterpiece. Part of that is it’s charm and wit, and changes of mood., but part of is the way it builds up over time, episode by episode. Ideas unexpectedly recur in a different way in a later tale, and all the different themes come together with the last story.
    I think if you expect a flawed, slightly compromised, interesting humanistic film, you’ll be fine.

    Red Monarch, what year was that? I hate hearing about lost Lester projects that came close. On a good day I can appreciate things in Superman 3 or Return of the Musketeers, but then I look at what we could’ve had:Victory and that Kevin Kline press tour comedy.

  5. I met him a couple of times, most memorably at a junket for a silly nothing comedy called Club Paradise. Because of some scheduling snafu or other I was alone with him for 15 minutes. I was able to talk very casually with him about comedy, about which he knew TONS. His greatest movie impact was as a dramatic actor, but I adore him here.

  6. Red Monarch was around the time Popeye had come out and Williams’ career was stone cold. I guess he used the accent for Moscow on the Hudson.

  7. He was perfectly cast – and uncredited again – as the Professor in Hampton’s adaptation of Secret Agent, the one thing that film got right. But basically, sadness.

  8. Though I met him several times (especially remember once at La Strada in LA in “Mork and Mindy” days when he said “sit down” as I returned from the restroom(he was sitting with David Steinberg)and made us laugh non-stop for at least half an hour) I did not know him. Saw him perform in person many times…the best was when he would show up unannounced and do an hour at high speed. Especially remember a “Women in Film” Oscar party fundraiser at the Boarding House in SF in the late 1970s. As the Oscar broadcast ended we were told there was a surprise guest who had a few things to say…and he did nearly 60 minutes on the Academy Awards that had just ended. Amazing.
    Last saw him in “Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo” on Broadway on 2011.

  9. “Character… force of personality.” That’s a good scene for him.

    Thanks for adding your memories, David E and Gary M.

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