Robert Guillaume is not about flash. He's about craft -- and he hits to all fields. Now 77 years of age, the native St. Louisan is showing no signs of slowing down, continuing to land roles in critically acclaimed projects like Tim Burton's Big Fish and the celebrated yet short-lived television series Sports Night, as well as a cavalcade of voice work in blockbuster animated features like the Lion King trilogy.
In 1980, when Neil Simon's Seems Like Old Times was released, Guillaume was at the peak of his fame. Fresh off a moody star turn as a washed-up, alcoholic ex-baseball-player-cum-peanut-vendor-cum-big-league-manager/Gary Coleman's dad in The Kid from Left Field, Guillaume did onscreen civil rights a friggin' service with his expert portrayal of Benson DuBois in the long-running Soap spinoff, Benson. Here, Guillaume dispensed political advice to Governor Gatling along with top-shelf Scotch, eventually earning an unprecedented promotion from domestic servant to lieutenant governor.
Inexplicably, Guillaume's star on the Delmar Walk of Fame is ghettoized on the boulevard's extreme western edge near Craft Alliance, where nobody walks. This is a shame, because if people were to walk there they'd discover the treasure that is Craft Alliance. More important, they'd also discover the treasure that is Robert Guillaume.
Guillaume's contribution to Seems Like Old Times -- in which he plays straight against the expertly cast comic tripling of Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin -- is substantial. But then, Guillaume's contribution to every project is substantial. Unlike Morgan Freeman, who whores for dollars far too often in crappy big-budget thrillers, Guillaume chooses roles that are both eclectic and important, thus serving as a human bridge between Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington. He is the Daniel Day-Lewis of his race and generation, and Phyllis can only hope he'll be recognized as such by the Academy -- before they have to do it posthumously.
Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.