Robert Downey, Sr. has directed and acted in numerous feature films in the past four decades. But most fans might not realize that one of Downey’s first works involved filming elementary school students in Albert Cullum’s classroom. As seen in A TOUCH OF GREATNESS, the stunning black-and-white films shot by Downey in the early 1960s reveal both the strengths of Cullum’s teaching methods and his students’ sheer love for learning.

Born in 1937, Downey was a young novice filmmaker in the early 1960s when Cullum asked him to collaborate on filming his classroom. “I had made one, maybe two films, “ Downey said. “And [Cullum] said ‘Could you do this?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know if I can get a cameraman, I better learn how to use the camera.’ And he said, ‘You’ll figure it out.’”

“Figure it out” he did: Downey took the train from New York City to Rye on several occasions, filming Cullum’s Lady Macbeths and other child actors as they recreated the works of Shakespeare and other playwrights on the school grounds. This early filmmaking effort of Downey’s led to bigger and greater projects, including directing Putney Swope (1969), Pound (1970), America (1986) and Forest Hills Bob (2001), as well as several episodes for television. Downey’s acting credits include movies such as To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), Johnny Be Good (1988), Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999) and The Family Man (2000). Most recently, he appeared in Barry Strugatz’s From Other Worlds, a science-fiction comedy.
A black-and-white headshot of Robert Downey, Sr. looking seriously at the camera.


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