Famous Veteran: Jason Robards, Jr.

Jason Robards

"He was 24 and had seen too much — buddies being killed around him, the strain of prolonged attacks. You know what it does. It made him brittle."

Jason Robards, Jr. began life in the household of actor Jason Robards, Sr. and Hope Maxine. While still in grad school, his parents divorced and left an indelible mark on his worldview. Robards also personally saw the effect film had on his father's career: when cinema with sound came into vogue, the elder Robards found himself on the outside looking in, and his experiences predisposed his son against Hollywood.  hich helped guide him towards stage acting. He was a fast runner in high school and, despite several offers from universities, decided to join the Navy in 1940.

After enlisting, Robards became a radioman 3rd class and served on the heavy cruiser USS Northampton. Despite contrary reports, Robards' ship was miles away from Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attack came on December 7th. He did witness the aftermath of the attack when the Northampton returned to Pearl Harbor two days afterwards.

Robards' ship left for the Guadalcanal campaign in the Pacific theater and participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. On November 30th, 1942, the Northampton was struck by two Japanese long-range torpedoes in the Battle of Tassafaronga. The ship was destroyed, and Robards survived by treading water near the wreckage for hours until a U.S. destroyer rescued him.

Robards went on to serve on the USS Nashville. Two years following the incident, the Nashville served as the flagship for the invasion of Minodoro in the Philippines. A kamikaze pilot struck the ship during the battle and hit one of gun mounts and managed to drop two bombs which set the midsection of the ship on fire. Despite 223 casualties, Robards survived, and the Nashville returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

During his time on the Nashville, Robards picked up Strange Interlude, a stage play by Eugene O'Neil. This inspired him to think about acting as a career, and he decided to pursue that goal after successfully emceeing for a Navy band at Pearl Harbor. He started out with bit parts in radio and stage, but landed a major break as the star for a television adaptation of Ice Man Cometh.  

Robards' career was prolific: he landed notable roles in film, television, and theatre, including classics such as Long Day Journey's Into Night, Once Upon a Time in the West and All the President's Men. Throughout his life he struggled with alcoholism, and a restless personal life, getting married four times. He always had a preference for stage acting, having said, "It's the satisfaction of saying something about the human condition through the author, with the actors acting as the instrument, and then hearing the audience response." Over his career, Robards received, among others, eight Tony Awards, three Academy Awards, and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his role in Inherit the Wind.

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