Carteret County’s ill-starred Method actor

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“Robert Williams was one of the most realistic comedians the screen had. He made Cary Grant look like he was overacting…. To watch Robert Williams act was like seeing a comic using the Method, long before the Method became famous with Marlon [Brando] and Monty [Clift].”

–From a Turner Classic Movies interview with actor Christopher Plummer (2008)

“Williams … had a one-of-a-kind way of speaking a line — breezy and distracted, yet focused. An unmistakeable original, Williams is one of film history’s regrets. After a handful of talkies and this one starring role [opposite Jean Harlow in “Platinum Blonde”], he died of a ruptured appendix at age 34.”

–From “Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of the Modern Man” (2002) by Mick LaSalle

“If he had lived, he almost surely would have become a major star.”

–From “The Films of Frank Capra” (1974) by Donald C. Willis

Robert Williams was born in 1897 near Morgantown in Carteret County and grew up on a farm. He ran away from home at age 11 to join a tent show.

4 thoughts on “Carteret County’s ill-starred Method actor”

  1. Thanks, Lew! I have never heard of Robert Williams. This might be a fun thread–NC movie stars OTHER than Andy Griffith and Ava Gardner . . .

    Let’s see, there is Sidney Blackmer from Salisbury. He began acting in the 1910s as a Mountie in the Perils of Pauline film series (think Dudley Dooright) and moved on to Broadway to win a Tony for Come Back Little Sheba. He was in more than 100 films, including Rosemary’s Baby. But, he is probably best known for his many portrayals of Teddy Roosevelt.

  2. I was a big fan of Murray Hamilton, even before I learned he was born, was reared, died (1986 at age 63) and was buried in Washington, N.C. Hamilton is best remembered for playing the bullheaded mayor in “Jaws” and MR. Robinson (great trivia question) in “The Graduate,” but he also had significant roles in “No Time For Sergeants,” “The Hustler” and scores of other movies and TV shows dating back to 1944. A first-class second banana.

  3. How could I have neglected to mention that Murray Hamilton and Peggy Cass played Charlotteans (!) Fred and Edna Ferguson in the 1969 comedy “If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium.” (The Fergusons had hauled their headstrong daughter off to Europe to protect her virginity from her boyfriend back home.)

  4. I just watched “Platinum Blonde” on Netflix. I had never seen or heard of Robert Williams before today! I thought he was fabulous in this role. He was a natural actor, I’m sure he would’ve gone far. There was something so appealing about his manner, and so believable. I googled his name to find out why I hadn’t seen him in anything else and found the regrettable truth of his untimely death. Are there any other movies of his worth watching?

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