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Robert Downey Sr., filmmaker & father of Robert Downey Jr., dies at 85

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Robert Downey Sr., Robert Downey Jr., director

Sad news just coming in that Robert Downey Sr., director and father of actor Robert Downey Jr., died early today in his sleep at home in New York City. The director of the anti-establishment satirical film, Putney Swope, was 85.

The news of his death was announced by his wife and author Rosemary Rogers in the “New York Daily News.” Rogers revealed to the publication that Downey Sr. had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for more than five years. Robert Downey Jr. took to his Instagram page to pay tribute to his late father by calling him “a true maverick filmmaker” who “remained remarkably optimistic” through “the ravages of Parkinson’s.” You can view Downey Jr.’s Instagram post below.

Downey Sr. was born in New York City and became a driving force in the city’s underground film movement of the 1960s. The director took on several offbeat projects including Ball’s Bluff, Babo 73, Chafed Elbows, and No More Excuses but his work became known to a wider audience with the release of 1969’s Putney Swope. The film, starring Arnold Johnson as Swope, followed a Black advertising executive who surprisingly and accidentally becomes the agency’s new chairman of the board. The satire took spot-on aims at the advertising industry, Madison Avenue culture, corporate America, and racism and it’s said that the satirical classic has inspired generations of indie filmmakers over the years. The film was selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, back in 2016.

Downey Sr. also put in work as an actor, appearing in such films as To Live and Die in L.A., 1st & Ten, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia. His final film credit was in 2011’s Tower Heist.

The filmmaker was currently married to Rosemary Rogers while he and his first wife had two children that include actress-winner Allyson Downey and Robert Downey Jr. The couple divorced in 1982 and he married second wife Laura Ernst in 1991.  Downey Sr. later married Rosemary Rogers in 1998 following the death of his second wife.

Our deepest condolences go out to Downey Sr.’s family, friends, and fans during this difficult time. Thankfully he left behind some truly culturally relevant work that will continue to inspire for years to come.

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