Robert Downey, Sr.

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For his son, see Robert Downey, Jr..
Robert Downey, Sr.
Born Robert John Elias, Jr.
(1936-06-24) June 24, 1936 (age 78)
United States
Occupation Filmmaker, actor
Years active 1961–present
Spouse(s) Elsie Ann Ford[1]
Laura Elizabeth Ernst
(1991–94; her death)
Rosemary Rogers
Children Allyson Downey
Robert Downey, Jr.

Robert John Downey, Sr., ( Elias, Jr.; June 24, 1936) is an American actor and filmmaker, and the father of actor Robert Downey, Jr. He is best known as an underground filmmaker, serving as director and/or writer of such cult classics as Putney Swope, a satire on the New York Madison Avenue advertising world.

Personal life[edit]

His father, Robert Elias Sr., was of Russian Jewish descent; and his mother, Betty McLoughlin, was of Irish Catholic background.[2][3][4][5][6] Downey was born Robert Elias; but he changed his last name to Downey for his stepfather, James Downey, when he wanted to enlist in the United States Army but was underage at the time.[7][8]

Downey has been married three times. His first marriage was to actress Elsie Ann Downey (née Ford), with whom he had two children: actress/writer Allyson Downey and actor Robert Downey, Jr. The marriage ended in divorce in 1975. Downey Sr.'s second marriage, to actress-writer Laura Ernst, ended with her 1994 death from Lou Gehrig's disease. He currently lives in New York City with his third wife, Rosemary Rogers, author of Random House bestseller, "Saints Preserve Us!" and seven other books, whom he married in 1998.[9]


In 1961, working with the film editor Fred von Bernewitz, he began writing and directing low-budget 16mm films that gained an underground following, beginning with Ball's Bluff (1961), a fantasy short about a Civil War soldier who awakens in Central Park in 1961. He moved into big-budget filmmaking with the surrealistic Greaser's Palace (1972).[10] His most recent film was Rittenhouse Square (2005), a documentary capturing life in a Philadelphia park.[11]

Downey Sr.'s movies were often family affairs. His first wife, Elsie, appears in four of his movies (Chafed Elbows, Pound, Greaser's Palace, Moment to Moment), as well as co-writing one (Moment to Moment).[12] Daughter Allyson and son Robert Jr. each made their film debuts in the 1970 absurdist comedy Pound at the ages of 7 and 5, respectively; Allyson would appear in one more film by her father, Up the Academy.[13] Robert Downey Jr.'s lengthy acting résumé includes appearances in eight films directed by his father (Pound, Greaser's Palace, Moment to Moment, Up the Academy, America, Rented Lips, Too Much Sun, Hugo Pool), as well as two acting appearances in movies where his father was also an actor (Johnny Be Good, Hail Caesar).[14]



  1. ^
  2. ^ Robert Downey Jr. – Inside The Actors Studio Pt. 1 on YouTube
  3. ^ Interfaith Celebrities: On Jake Gyllenhaal's Jewish-ishness and Robert Downey Jr. the Jubu.
  4. ^ Daisy Fried (May 1, 1997). "Senior Class". Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved June 17, 2008. 
  5. ^ Jamie Diamond (December 20, 1992). "Robert Downey Jr. Is Chaplin (on Screen) and a Child (Off)". The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2008. 
  6. ^ Top 100 Irish America's Finest in Dance • Music • Acting.
  7. ^ Diamond, Jamie. (December 20, 1992). "FILM; Robert Downey Jr. Is Chaplin (on Screen) and a Child (Off)". New York Times. 
  8. ^ Fulton, Rick. (October 27, 2010). "Daily Record interview; robert-downey-jr-i-don-t-even-know-what-it-s-like-to-be-stoned-any-more". Daily Record. 
  9. ^ "Rosemary Rogers, Robert Downey". New York Times. May 10, 1998. Retrieved August 1, 2008. 
  10. ^ Vincent Canby. "Review: Greaser's Palace". The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Rittenhouse Square (2005) IMDB". 
  12. ^ "IMDb Credits List for Elsie Downey". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  13. ^ "IMDb Credits List for Allyson Downey". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  14. ^ "IMDb Credits List for Robert Downey, Jr.". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 

External links[edit]