Dearly Departed: Funny Man Robin Williams’ Rise to Fame and Lifetime Battle with Drugs and Depression

robin williamsEditor’s Note: Robin Williams died at the age of 63. That’s just too young.

One of America’s most Beloved entertainers Robin Williams, who was found dead Monday, will forever be remembered as a singular talent who rocketed to fame as a zany alien in Mork & Mindy and spent the next 35-plus years captivating millions with his incomparable gifts.

Born in Chicago in 1951, the four-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner started as a funnyman and soon proved he could also captivate America with his skills as an improvisor and dramatic actor.

He is survived by his wife of three years Susan Schneider and children Zachary Pym, 31; Zelda Rae, 25; and Cody Alan, 19.

Despite his lifetime battle with depression and substance abuse, the four-time Oscar nominee was in the midst of a career Renaissance of sorts.

In December, Williams will reprise his role of Teddy Roosevelt in the third installment of the Night at the Museum franchise.

The Chicago-born funnyman had also recently made headlines after he signed on to once again play the cross-dressing Mrs. Doubtfire in a sequel to the 1993 family comedy.

Williams’ star power and status as one of America’s most adored comedians had never really gone away throughout his 35-plus year career.

He first became a household name in 1978 with his breakout role as alien come to earth Mork in the ABC comedy Mork & Mindy after debuting the role on Happy Days.

Partly on the power of his sitcom’s popularity, Williams soon made his big screen debut in Robert Altman’s 1980 comedy Popeye as the spinach-loving muscleman.

Reviews were mixed for the live action film, but Williams easily moved on to such successes as The World According to Garp, The Survivors and Moscow on the Hudson.

At 36, Williams took his career another great leap forward thanks to the undeniable magnetism he put on display in 1987’s Good Morning Vietnam.

The role would win him his first Academy Award nomination. He would go on to receive three more nods and one statue, for his role of Sean Maguire in the 1998 hit Good Will Hunting alongside a fresh-faced Matt Damon.

He also played for tears in Awakenings, Dead Poets Society and What Dreams May Come, something that led New York Times critic Stephen Holden to once say he dreaded seeing the actor’s ‘Humpty Dumpty grin and crinkly moist eyes.’

Williams also won three Golden Globes, for Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Fisher King.

Williams was well known for his charitable spirit and work off screen with organizations like Comic Relief, the Christopher & Diana Reeve Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Entertainment executive Jeff Katzenberg recalled his friend Williams’ charitable work in an interview with the LA Times.

‘There were so many ways and so many things he did for so many people,’ Katzenberg told the Times in an interview. ‘He really had just a giant heart and that’s what makes me so sad.’

Along with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, Williams started hosting an annual Comic Relief fundraising special to benefit the homeless in 1986.

He’d since helped to raise some $80 million for the charity.

Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams would remember himself as a shy kid who got some early laughs from his mother – by mimicking his grandmother. He opened up more in high school when he joined the drama club and he was accepted into the Juilliard Academy, where he had several classes in which he and Christopher Reeve were the only students and John Houseman was the teacher.

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