Robert Downey Sr, the American filmmaker who directed the 1969 satire film Putney Swope, died on Wednesday, his son Robert Downey Jr wrote on social media.
The filmmaker who suffered from Parkinson’s had just turned 85 on June 24.
Downey Jr, best known for his role as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, took to Instagram and paid tribute to his father, calling him a ‘true maverick filmmaker’. He wrote: “RIP Bob D. Sr. 1936-2021. Last night, dad passed peacefully in his sleep after years of enduring the ravages of Parkinson’s. He was a true maverick filmmaker, and remained remarkably optimistic throughout. According to my stepmom’s calculations, they were happily married for just over 2000 years. Rosemary Rogers-Downey, you are a saint, and our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Born in 1936 in New York City, Downey Sr was an actor, director, producer, writer, and cinematographer. His acting credits included his role as a Civil War soldier in his directorial debut Balls Bluff, a short film that he also wrote and produced. It was among the many low-budget 16 mm underground films that he went on to make such as the short films Babo 73 and Naughty Nurse, and the documentary A Touch of Greatness.
“It was just fun,” Robert Downey Sr said of his early New York filmmaking days, in a 2016 interview with the Village Voice. “We had no money. My wife would get a check from doing a commercial, and I’d grab it before she even saw it. Later, I’d pay it back. Nobody ever made a dime on these things.”
Putney Swope brought him into limelight. It tells the story of the accidental election of a Black man to the post of chairman of an ad agency, and was selected for the United States National Film Registry. It was followed by the 1970 comedy Pound, which marked the acting debut of his children Allyson Downey and Robert Downey Jr.
His first big-budget film was The Greaser’s Palace (1972).
Downey Sr’s other directorial works include Up the Academy (1980) and three episodes of The Twilight Zone. The 2005 documentary Rittenhouse Square was his last directorial.
He was married thrice, and is survived by children Allyson Downey, Robert Downey, and third wife Rosemary Rogers.