Jason Robards

For his father, an actor uniformly credited as "Jason Robards", see Jason Robards Sr.
Jason Robards

Born Jason Nelson Robards, Jr.
(1922-07-26)July 26, 1922
Chicago, Illinois, US
Died December 26, 2000(2000-12-26) (aged 78)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
Cause of death Lung cancer
Occupation Actor
Years active 1947–2000
Known for Playing historical figures,
Eugene O'Neill
Spouse(s) Eleanor Pittman
(m. 1948–1958; divorced) (3 children)
Rachel Taylor
(m. 1959–1961; divorced)
Lauren Bacall
(m. 1961–1969; divorced) (1 child)
Lois O'Connor
(m. 1970–2000; his death) (2 children)
Children Six, including Sam Robards
Parent(s) Jason Robards, Sr.,
Hope Maxine (née Glanville) (1895–1992)
Awards See Awards

Jason Nelson Robards, Jr. (July 26, 1922 – December 26, 2000) was an American stage, film, and television actor. He was a winner of the Tony Award, two Academy Awards and an 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 both in common-man roles and as well-known historical figures.

Early life and education

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 German, 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 world view.

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 enlist in the United States Navy upon his graduation in 1940.

Following the completion of recruit training and radio school, Robards was assigned to a heavy cruiser, the USS Northampton (CA-26) in 1941 as a radioman 3rd class. On December 7, 1941, the Northampton was at sea 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 in the waters north of 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 her 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. With this damage and 223 casualties, 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,[5] contrary to what has been reported in numerous sources. The inaccurate story derives from a 1979 column by Hy Gardner.[6]

On the Nashville, Robards first found a copy of Eugene O'Neill's play Strange Interlude in the ship's library.[7][8] Also while in the Navy, 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 was awarded the Good Conduct Medal of the Navy, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.


Robards got into acting after the war and his career began slowly. He moved to New York City and found small parts – first in radio and then on the stage. His first film was Follow That Music, a short movie from 1947. 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 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 also played in the 1970 film Tora Tora Tora which was a depiction of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7tj, 1941 which led the United States into World War II.

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, played by Tom Cruise.


Robards received eight Tony Award nominations,[9] – more than any other male actor as of March 2015. 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 first 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, Robards offered to narrate the schizophrenia program, saying that his first wife had been institutionalized for that illness.[13]

Jason Robards is in the American Theater Hall of Fame; he was inducted in 1979.[14][15]

Personal life

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 longtime struggle with alcoholism.[7][8] Robards overcame his addiction and went on to publicly campaign for alcoholism awareness.[17][18]

Robards was an American 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.[19] 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.[20]


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)
Run Production Role Notes
November 7, 1956 – March 29, 1958 Long Day's Journey into Night James Tyrone, Jr. Theatre World Award
Nominated-Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play
December 3, 1958 – May 16, 1959 The Disenchanted Manley Halliday Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
February 25, 1960 – April 8, 1961 Toys in the Attic Julian Berniers Nominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
March 15, 1961 – June 10, 1961 Big Fish, Little Fish William Baker
April 5, 1962 – April 13, 1963 A Thousand Clowns Murray Burns
January 23, 1964 – May 29, 1965 After the Fall Quentin Nominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
March 12, 1964 – July 2, 1964 But for Whom Charlie Seymour Rosenthal
December 22, 1964 – January 30, 1965 Hughie "Erie" Smith Nominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
November 16, 1965 – January 22, 1966 The Devils Urbain Grandier
October 16, 1968 – December 29, 1968 We Bombed in New Haven Captain Starkey
March 15, 1972 – May 6, 1972 The Country Girl Frank Elgin Nominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
December 29, 1973 – November 17, 1974 A Moon for the Misbegotten James Tyrone, Jr. Nominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
December 28, 1977 – April 30, 1978 A Touch of the Poet Cornelius Melody Nominated-Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play
April 4, 1983 – January 1, 1984 You Can't Take It with You Martin Vanderhof
September 29, 1985 – December 1, 1985 The Iceman Cometh Theodore Hickman "Hickey"
April 16, 1987 – April 18, 1987 A Month of Sundays Cooper
June 23, 1988 – July 23, 1988 Ah, Wilderness! Nat Miller
June 14, 1988 – July 23, 1988 Long Day's Journey into Night James Tyrone
October 31, 1989 – January 21, 1990 Love Letters Andrew Makepiece Ladd III
November 17, 1991 – February 22, 1992 Park Your Car in Harvard Yard Jacob Brackish
January 27, 1994 – March 20, 1994 No Man's Land Hirst

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


Year Film Role Notes
1959 The Journey Paul Kedes
1961 By Love Possessed Julius Penrose
1962 Tender Is the Night Dr. Richard "Dick" Diver
Long Day's Journey into Night Jamie Tyrone Best Actor Award
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
1963 Act One George S. Kaufman
1965 A Thousand Clowns Murray Burns Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1966 A Big Hand for the Little Lady Henry Drummond
Any Wednesday John Cleves
1967 Divorce American Style Nelson Downes
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre Al Capone
Hour of the Gun Doc Holliday
1968 Isadora Singer
Once Upon a Time in the West Manuel 'Cheyenne' Gutiérrez
The Night They Raided Minsky's Raymond Paine
1970 Rosolino Paternò, soldato… Sam Armstrong
The Ballad of Cable Hogue Cable Hogue
Julius Caesar Marcus Brutus
Tora! Tora! Tora! Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short
Fools Matthew South
1971 Jud
Johnny Got His Gun Joe's Father
Murders in the Rue Morgue Cesar Charron
1972 The War Between Men and Women Stephen Kozlenko
1973 Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid Governor Wallace
1975 A Boy and His Dog Lou Craddock
Mr. Sycamore John Gwilt
1976 All the President's Men Ben Bradlee Academy 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 Was Inspector Barkan
1977 Julia Dashiell Hammett Academy 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
1978 Comes a Horseman Jacob "J.W." Ewing
1979 Hurricane Captain Bruckner
1980 Cabo Blanco Gunther Beckdorff
Raise the Titanic Admiral James Sandecker
Melvin and Howard Howard Hughes Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor (third place)
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor (second place)
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1981 The Legend of the Lone Ranger Ulysses S. Grant
1983 Max Dugan Returns Max Dugan
Something Wicked This Way Comes Charles Halloway
The Day After Dr. Russell Oakes
1987 Square Dance Dillard
1988 Bright Lights, Big City Mr. Hardy Uncredited
The Good Mother Muth
1989 Dream a Little Dream Coleman Ettinger
Reunion Harry Strauss
Parenthood Frank Buckman
Black Rainbow Walter Travis
1990 Quick Change Chief Rotzinger
1992 Storyville Clifford Fowler
Deceptions[21] Clay
1993 The Adventures of Huck Finn The King
The Trial Doctor Huld
Heidi Grandfather
Philadelphia Charles Wheeler
1994 The Paper Graham Keighley
"The Enemy Within" General R. Pendleton Lloyd
Little Big League Thomas Heywood
1995 Crimson Tide Rear Admiral Anderson Uncredited
1997 A Thousand Acres Larry Cook
1998 The Real Macaw Grandpa Girdis
Beloved Mr. Bodwin
Enemy of the State Congressman Phillip Hammersley Uncredited
Heartwood Logan Reeser
1999 Magnolia Earl Partridge Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cast
Nominated-Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture


Year Title Role Notes
1951–1954 The Big Story Mr. Simms
Aaron Dudley
episode: "Arthur Mielke of the Washington Times Herald"
episode: "Aaron Dudley, Reporter"
1955 The Philco Television Playhouse Mason
Joe Grant
episode: "The Outsiders"
episode: "The Death of Billy the Kid"
1955–1956 Armstrong Circle Theatre Paul Foster
Ralph Sawyer
Reinhardt Schmidt
episode: "Man in Shadow"
episode: "The Town That Refused to Die"
episode: "Lost $2 Billion: The Story of Hurricane Diane"
Justice Karder episode: "Pattern of Lies"
episode: "Decision by Panic"
1956–1957 The Alcoa Hour Jayson
Bert Palmer
episode: "Night"
episode: "The Big Build-Up"
episode: "Even the Weariest River"
1955–1957 Studio One in Hollywood Prisoner
Leonard O'Brien
episode: "Twenty-Four Hours"
episode: "The Incredible World of Horace Ford"
episode: "A Picture in the Paper"
1958 Omnibus Prime Minister episode: "Moment of Truth"
1959 Playhouse 90 Robert Jordan episode: "For Whom the Bell Tolls: Part 2"
NBC Sunday Showcase Alex Reed episode: "People Kill People Sometimes"
A Doll's House (TV movie) Dr. Rank
1960 Dow Hour of Great Mysteries Detective Anderson episode: "The Bat" by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Play of the Week Theodore 'Hickey' Hickman episode: "The Iceman Cometh"
1962 Westinghouse Presents: That's Where the Town is Going (TV movie) Hobart Cramm
1964 Abe Lincoln in Illinois (TV movie) Abraham Lincoln Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
1963–1966 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Irish LaFontain
Ivan Denisovich
episode: "Shipwrecked"
episode: "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"
1966 ABC Stage 67 Royal Earle Thompson episode: "Noon Wine"
1969 Spoon River (TV movie) Reader
1972 Circle of Fear Elliot Brent episode: "The Dead We Leave Behind"
The House Without a Christmas Tree (TV movie) Jamie Mills
1973 The Thanksgiving Treasure (TV movie) James Mills
1974 The Country Girl Frank Elgin
1975 The Easter Promise (TV movie) Jamie
A Moon for the Misbegotten James Tyrone, Jr. Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Special Program – Drama or Comedy
1976 Addie and the King of Hearts (TV movie) Jamie Mills
1977 Washington: Behind Closed Doors (TV miniseries) President Richard Monckton six episodes
Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series
1978 A Christmas to Remember (TV movie) Daniel Larson
1980 F.D.R.: The Last Year (TV movie) President Franklin D. Roosevelt Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special
Haywire (TV movie) Leland Hayward
1983 The Day After Dr. Russell Oakes
1984 American Playhouse Erie Smith episode: "Hughie"
Sakharov Andrei Sakharov Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Great Performances Grandpa Martin Vanderhof episode: "You Can't Take It with You"
1985 The Atlanta Child Murders Alvin Binder
The Long Hot Summer Will Varner
1986 Johnny Bull (TV movie) Stephen Kovacs
The Last Frontier Ed Stenning
1987 Laguna Heat (TV movie) Wade Shepard
Breaking Home Ties Lloyd
1988 Inherit the Wind Henry Drummond Primetime 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
1990 The Civil War Ulysses S. Grant nine episodes
1991 The Perfect Tribute Abraham Lincoln
Chernobyl: The Final Warning Dr. Armand Hammer
An Inconvenient Woman Jules Mendelson
American Masters Narrator episode: "Helen Hayes: The First Lady of the American Theatre"
On the Waterways Narrator 13 episodes
Mark Twain and Me (TV movie) Mark Twain Nominated- CableACE Award for Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
1992 Lincoln (TV movie) Abraham Lincoln (voice)
1993 Heidi Grandfather
1994 The Enemy Within General R. Pendleton Lloyd
1995 My Antonia Josea Burden
Journey Marcus
1996–1997 The American Experience Narrator episode: "Truman: Part I"
episode: "T.R.: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt (Part I)"
2000 Going Home Charles Barton (Last appearance)

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


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  5. Sterner, C. Douglas. Index: Recipients of the Navy Cross, All Wars/All Periods, All Branches of Service. Pueblo CO, 2006
  6. Gardner, Hy. Panorama magazine, Vol. II, No. 1, Sunday Daily Herald, January 7, 1979, p. 2
  7. 1 2 3 The New York Times Magazine, January 20, 1974
  8. 1 2 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. 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. "Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Google News Archive Search". google.com.
  18. http://www.adcouncil.org/content/download/1297/11435/version/1/file/matters_of_choice.pdf
  19. "From the Archives" feature ("The Week of July 8") of The Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), July 9, 2007, page A7, Stamford edition.
  20. The New York Times, February 27, 2001
  21. "Deceptions". Theiapolis - Cinema.
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