Robin Williams & Jamaica

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

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FOR four months in 1985, scenic Portland was the backdrop for Club Paradise, a movie starring Robin Williams and reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff.

Released the following year, the comedy was a launching pad for Williams' remarkable film career.

Williams died Monday at age 63 in Los Angeles. Media reports out of Hollywood say the actor suffered from 'severe depression', with police giving asphyxia as the cause of death.

He was a star on the rise at the time Club Paradise went into production. Directed and written by Harold Ramis, it also starred Peter O'Toole, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy and British model Twiggy.

Williams played Jack Moniker, a retired Chicago firefighter who moves to the (fictional) island of Saint Nicholas after receiving a disability award. There, he befriends Cliff (bandleader Ernest Reed) and they open Club Paradise, a venue located in the island's tourist area.

Cliff's Oneness band was featured in the movie. One of its members was guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith who remembers hanging out with Williams during breaks from filming.

"I remember one time him a play cricket an' a ball lick him pon him forehead, an' him couldn't do a scene," Smith told the Jamaica Observer.

"Very funny bredrin...Wi used to sing Homegrown (a ganja anthem written by Smith) with Harold Ramis who play guitar."

A number of noted Jamaicans appeared in Club Paradise, including Louise 'Miss Lou' Bennett-Coverley, former Miss Jamaica Cathi Levy, Carl Bradshaw of The Harder They Come fame and theatre veteran Bobby Ghisays.

Warner Bros' budget for the movie was $15 million but the film turned out to be a flop. It was slammed by critics in the United States and made just over $12 million at the box office.

It did not hurt Williams' career. In 1987, he had a breakthrough role in Good Morning Vietnam, followed by outstanding performances in Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Mrs Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting. His role in the latter won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998.

Ramis, whose credits include the comedy classics Animal House, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters, died in February at age 69.




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