Charles Robert Redford was born on the 18th August 1936 in Santa Monica, California in an ethically mixed working class area. His ancestry is that of Irish Catholic and he was the only child of his father Charles senior who worked as a milkman. His mother Martha Redford nee Hart was a home maker who Robert adored. However, he describes his relationship with his father as distant.
Robert was a very athletic young man who won himself a baseball scholarship and subsequently went to the University of Colorado in 1955. That same year his mother died suddenly, which derailed the young Redford, leaving him severely shaken. To kill the emotional pain he began drinking excessively and as a result he regularly skipped classes and missed practice. Eventually he was kicked off the baseball team and as a consequence he lost his scholarship.
Redford had long harboured aspirations of becoming an artist and wanted to study in Paris. In an effort to fulfil his dream he began working in the Los Angeles oil fields to finance his studies. He travelled around Europe for a while then eventually settled in Italy. However, it was not too long before boredom and frustration seeped in and he decided to return to Los Angeles.
When he arrived in Los Angeles he drifted for a while before meeting Lola Van Wagenen, who dropped out of college to marry him. Lola encouraged him to continue to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist and suggested that he enrolled at the highly prestigious Pratt’s Institute. Simultaneously he also began to take classes in set designing at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. His baptism into the world of acting came quite by accident in 1959 when during the production of ‘Tall Story’ another actor left the project and Robert was asked by the director to audition for a small part in the play.
Robert’s acting career began in earnest in New York in the 50’s when he appeared in numerous highly rated and successful television series such as ‘Route 66’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘Hitchcock Presents’ and many more. His film debut came in 1962 in a film called ‘War Hunt’, based on the Korean War. In 1963 he starred in the Broadway production of ‘Barefoot in the Park’ which was a highly success comedy which received rave reviews. He did this continuously for eleven months after which he decided to try Hollywood. His first five films failed at the box office, after which he decided that it was time to reflect, so he again left for Europe to ponder his next career move.
In 1967 the film version of ‘Barefoot in the Park’ was made with him in the lead role opposite Jane Fonder. The film was a smash hit which earned him a great deal of attention. Next up was ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ a role for which he had to fight. He was not the producer’s first choice and was only considered when negotiations with other leading stars of the day fell through. However, this was the film which truly marked his arrival in Hollywood as a bona fide star.
Redford went on to make many successful films which won him numerous nominations and awards. He career spanned forty years in which he not only acted but also directed and produced many successful films. During that time his marriage to Lola produced four children one of whom died at 2.5 months of cot death syndrome. His marriage to Lola ended in divorce in 1985. Redford remarried in 2008 for the second time to his long-term partner, Sibyelle Szaggars who is German and an artist by profession
He has used his considerable influence to further numerous environmental causes and in 1981 he acquired a 5500 acre piece of real estate near his summer home in Utah, on which he established the now influential and prestigious Sundance Institute for independent filmmakers.
Charles Robert Redford’s rugged good looks made him one of the biggest stars in Hollywood throughout the 1970’s, however as his star waned over Hollywood he was simultaneously able to transfer his considerable artistic abilities to the art of filmmaking.