Robert Downey Sr, the director of classic movie “Putney Swope” and father of Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr, has died. He was 85.
Downey Jr shared the news in a post on Instagram on Tuesday, saying that his father passed away in his sleep at home in New York City.
The actor also revealed that Downey Sr had Parkinson’s disease for more than five years.
“He was a true maverick filmmaker, and remained remarkably optimistic throughout. According to my stepmom’s calculations, they were happily married for just over 2000 years,” he wrote.
Born on June 24, 1936 in New York City as Robert Elias Jr, the filmmaker changed his name in honour of his stepfather James Downey and also to get enlisted in the US Army early.
After completing his service, Downey Sr lived with his sister in Greenwich Village, where he fell in love with the underground cinema of the time.
He started his career with 1961 short film Ball’s Bluff, which he wrote and directed.
Downey Sr followed up the movie with offbeat indies like 1964’s Babo 73, Chafed Elbows (1966) and No More Excuses in 1968. But it was the 1969 movie Putney Swope that brought him recognition.
An anti-establishment satire, the movie was set in the world of advertising. It featured Arnold Johnson as a Black advertising executive who upends his firm after winning a board election no one expected him to achieve.
Putney Swope was praised for its take on the portrayal of race in Hollywood films, the white power structure, and the nature of corporate corruption.
Downey Sr then directed 1972’s acid western Greaser’s Palace, which featured actor Allan Arbus as Jesse, a man with amnesia who heals the sick, resurrects the dead and tap dances on water in the American frontier.
His other credits included 1973 TV film Sticks and Bones, Up the Academy (1980) and episodes of TV series, including The Twilight Zone reboot.
Downey Sr was also known as an actor, appearing in films like To Live and Die in L.A. and Magnolia.
The veteran director was married three times. He married actor Elsie Anne Downey in 1962 and they had two children – Allyson Downey and Robert Downey Jr.
After his divorce from Anne Downey in 1975, the filmmaker went on to marry actor Laura Ernst, who died in 1994. He later married Rosemary Rogers, the best-selling author.