Robert Downey, Senior, the father of actor Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man in the MCU, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) and actress/writer Allyson Downey (a platoon leader in Up the Academy) has died at the age of 85. He passed away peacefully, dying in his sleep at home. Downey had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for the last five years.
Downey, Sr. was a filmmaker. He was born Robert Elias, Jr. June 24, 1936 in New York City, NY. He took his stepfather’s surname when he attempted to enlist in the army underage. He was married three times, to actress/writer Elsie Downey (1934 -2014), the mother of his two children, from 1962 -1975; to actress/writer Laura Ernst from 1991 – 1994; and to author Rosemary Rogers from 1998 – 2021. Robert Downey, Sr. died July 7, 2021 in New York City. He is survived by his widow Rosemary, his son and daughter, three grandchildren. and his brother comedian Jim Downey.
As a filmmaker, Robert Downey, Sr. was best known for low budget, counter-culture, absurdist films that mocked the Establishment. He is best remembered as a director, but he was also a producer, cinematographer, and an actor.In the fantasy short Balls Bluff (1961), he was scriptwriter, director, producer, and played a Civil War soldier. In Chafed Elbows, an underground film, Downey was director, producer, and writer. His wife at the time played all 13 female roles. The movie was made for $12,000, but became a commercial success. His first big budget film was Putney Swope, which was was selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Downey’s final film as a director was the documentary Rittenhouse Square (2005). His final appearance as an actor was as Judge Ramos in Tower Heist (2011). His final TV performance was on Saturday Night Life in 2015.
Robert Downey, Sr. lived a long, full life. He “served in the army, played minor-league baseball, was a Golden Gloves champion and off-off Broadway playwright, all before he was 22 years old.” He made underground movies that are now regarded as cult classics. Downey made such movies as The Gong Show Movie (1980), Greaser’s Palace (1972), Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight (1975), and Too Much Sun (1990). He directed three episodes of The Twilight Zone. He and his son, Robert Downey, Jr., both appeared in Hail Caesar (1994).
Our condolences to Rosemary Rogers, his children, and grandchildren. RIP, Robert Downey, Sr.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.