A Beginner's Guide to the Late, Great Cliff Robertson

Academy Award-winner Cliff Robertson passed away on Saturday just a day after his 88th birthday, but the dependable actor (and underrated, in terms of '60s Oscar winners -- right up there with my girl Sandy Dennis!) enjoyed roles in more than 100 films. As we say goodbye to his great talent, here's an exciting quintet of films to help you admire his versatile appeal.

Picnic (1955)

William Inge's famous play came to life in a glorious Kansan mist with William Holden and Kim Novak serving up heat and a super-sensual dance sequence worthy of Swayze and Grey's supplication. In one of Robertson's first roles, he played Holden's fraternity buddy Alan, a wealthy grain elevator owner's son who loses Novak to Holden. Here he lights up the screen with dapper, man's-man appeal.

P.T. 109 (1963)

Sure, Jackie Kennedy wanted Warren Beatty to play the part of her husband in the Warner Brothers epic PT 109, but JFK granted the final OK to Robertson. In the film, Kennedy leads his beleaguered crew aboard the ill-fated boat and establishes himself as a naval hero. This quaint trailer should transport you to the relatively sunnier first half of 1963.

Charly (1968)

Robertson nabbed an Oscar for his role as Charlie Gordon, the mentally handicapped man who undergoes a medical procedure that renders him a genius, in the film adaptation of Daniel Keyes's short story (and subsequent novel) Flowers for Algernon. While Robertson's performance was no doubt moving and believable, good ol' Vincent Canby correctly deduced the problem with this film: "...we [the audience] are forced into the vaguely unpleasant position of being voyeurs, congratulating ourselves for not being Charly as often as we feel a distant pity for him." Also, it makes the regrettable 1968 decision to devolve into psychedelia. But hey, Claire Bloom looks fab with her pre-A Doll's House Barbara Feldon 'do.

Here, Charly realizes that he's gaining intelligence. The lab mouse (Algernon) that regularly beats him in maze puzzles loses his first match.

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

While it's Faye Dunaway whose stunning performance as Robert Redford's passerby confidante makes Three Days of the Condor something of a classic, Sydney Pollack's suspense drama about a vagabond CIA agent features Robertson as a hardened CIA Deputy Director. He is serious. Here, he educates Redford about the Middle East, never pausing to question Redford's Navratilovan visage.

Spider-Man (2002)

While he appears in cameos in the fabulous Spider-Man 2 and the "Bad Movie We Love": http://www.movieline.com/2010/11/bad-movies-we-love-spider-man-3.php Spider-Man 3, Robertson's big comic-book moment occurs in the first Spider-Man as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben, who is killed by a mysterious carjacker. In this trailer, he attempts to empathize with the suddenly muscle-bound Peter.