Charly is an adult male with a cognitive disability struggling to survive in the modern world. His frequent attempts at learning, reading, and writing prove difficult. His teacher, Miss Kinian, takes Charly to the clinic where he is observed by doctors who have Charly "race" a mouse, Algernon. Algernon is usually the winner thanks to an experiment that greatly raised his intelligence. This experiment is given to Charly, who at first does not seem affected. However, he becomes more logically advanced, eventually becoming a pure genius. Emotional and intra-personal consequences are involved when Charly learns the truth of the experiment, and struggles with whether or not the procedure was a good idea.Written by
The renowned screenwriter William Goldman made his first attempt at a screenplay by adapting the novel for Cliff Robertson, who eventually fired him and replaced him with the more experienced Stirling Silliphant. See more »
When Alice Kinnian (who is unmarried) asks Dr. Nemur why he is using an animal test, Dr. Nemur addresses Miss Kinnian as "Mrs. Kinnian." See more »
[Charly picks up a book and reads from it]
"My name is Dick. I live in a house. I have a sister named Jane and a dog named Spot."
[He throws the book away]
My name is Charly Gordon and I live in a room, and I got no sister and no dog, and I am stupid!
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"No One Would Ever Think Of Making Fun Of A Blind Person Or A Cripple, Why Would They Do It To A Moron?"
After having done The Days Of Wine And Roses On the small screen and seeing Jack Lemmon get the part for the big screen, Cliff Robertson pulled a Katharine Hepburn. Like Kate the great who bought the screen rights to The Philadelphia Story and dictated the making of it to MGM, Robertson did the same for Charly which he had done on the US Steel Hour almost a decade earlier on television. He did better than Lemmon who only was nominated for Best Actor for Days Of Wine And Roses.
Charly is the story of an amiable mildly retarded man who works and supports himself in a job at a bakery, but also has agreed to become an experimental subject to scientists, Claire Bloom, Leon Janney, and Lilia Skala. Janney has a theory in which he feels that the proper enzyme given and an operation and Robertson could start to function like a normal person.
The operation has some foreseen and unforeseen consequences. One of them is that Robertson is one fully functioning male, but still lacks a whole lot of social skills. He forms an attachment to Bloom which is something she saw coming, but not necessarily her.
More important he becomes far more aware of the world around him and how badly treated he was by a lot of people. One role I very much liked was that of his landlady Ruth White who was a woman with a big heart who does value Robertson as a person and gives him the respect any of us is due.
Still the film belongs to Cliff Robertson who won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1968. Robertson had some stiff competition that year, but probably was helped by the fact that three of his competitors were British, Alan Bates for The Fixer, Ron Moody for Oliver, and Peter O'Toole for The Lion In Winter who if memory serves was the betting favorite. The other nominee was Alan Arkin for The Heart Is The Lonely Hunter. How he manages to go from a mildly retarded man to a person of no mean erudition is a wonderful process unfolding on the screen. Personally I think it ought to be required viewing in every acting class on the globe, the subtleties are something to behold.
I don't claim to be any kind of scientific expert on this or any other scientific matter, but I would love to hear from those who know more as to whether the whole theory is feasible or not. In any event though Charly is a fine picture with both a message and a heart.
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