Robert John Downey (Elias), Sr.
|Also Known As:||"Robert Joseph Downey"|
|Current Location::||New York, New York, United States|
|Birthplace:||Tennessee, United States|
Son of Bobby Elias and Elizabeth "Betty" McLauchlen
|Managed by:||Private User|
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About Robert Downey, Sr.
Described by an associate as "a big jovial bear", Robert Downey Sr. translated his irreverent, mordant humor to the screen as the writer-director of several experimental cult classics of the late 1960s and early 70s. He is best known as director and/or writer of such cult classics as Putney Swope, a satire on the New York Madison Avenue advertising world.
He was born Robert Elias on June 24, 1936 in the U.S. His father, Robert Elias, was the son of Russian Jewish parents and his mother, cover girl Betty McLoughlin, was of Irish Catholic descent. When he was a minor and wanted to enlist in the Army, he changed his last name to "Downey" (after his stepfather, James Downey).
Downey had worked in advertising and lampooned that business in the movie everyone associates with him, Putney Swope (1969), about the hilarious changes made by a token black member of an ad agency after he is accidentally elected Chairman of the Board. Though his greatest success, Putney Swope appears dated today, and the richer-looking (Downey finally had some money to spend) Greaser's Palace (1972) may have withstood the test of time. A super-offbeat Jesus Christ parody with a Western setting, it offers some wonderful performances by Allan Arbus as a zoot-suited Jesus, Albert Henderson as head Greaser and Stan Gottlieb as the "wife" of a deformed Mexican with a lecherous yen for the Saviour, but despite the inspired hilarity, its 91 minute running time seems longer than that.
With Chuck Barris, Downey co-wrote The Gong Show Movie (1980) and also directed Rented Lips (1988), scripted and produced by Martin Mull. Though his acting appearances have been few, he did play an ad agency head in You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat (1971), an NCAA investigator in Johnny Be Good (1988) and a recording studio manager in Boogie Nights (1997). Downey wrote and directed Too Much Sun (1991), a weak farce about a competition between a brother and sister (both gay) to have a child first, so as to inherit a fortune from their father. He returned with Hugo Pool (1997), co-written with his late wife Laura, about a dedicated, beautiful and lonely Beverly Hills pool cleaner (Alyssa Milano) who becomes involved in the lives of her clients, particularly Floyd, an attractive man afflicted with ALS (the same disease that had felled Laura Downey). His son Robert Downey Jr. appeared in Hugo Pool, the seventh of his father's films in which he has acted.
Downey Sr. has been married three times. His first marriage was to actress Elsie Downey (née Ford), with whom he had two children: actress/writer Allyson Downey and actor Robert Downey Jr. The marriage ended in divorce in 1975. Downey Sr.'s second marriage, to actress-writer Laura Ernst, ended with her 1994 death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. He currently lives in New York City with his third wife, Rosemary Rogers, whom he married in 1998.