Jason Robards, the veteran stage and screen actor who won back-to-back Oscars for "All the President's Men" and "Julia," died Dec. 26 at a hospital in Bridgeport, Conn., after battling cancer.

Mr. Robards, 78, started out as a stage actor in the 1950s, gaining critical acclaim for his performances in Eugene O'Neill plays, including "The Iceman Cometh" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night."

He made his film debut in 1959, playing a Hungarian freedom fighter in "The Journey." After the film was shot, Mr. Robards said he preferred the theater to the movies.

"Once you're on, nobody can say, 'Cut it.' You're out there on your own, and there's always that thrill of a real live audience," he told Newsweek magazine in a 1958 interview.

He went on to make more than 50 feature films and win two Academy Awards, for "All the President's Men" in 1976 and "Julia" in 1977.

His other films included "Divorce American Style" in 1967, "Johnny Got His Gun" in 1971, "Comes a Horseman" in 1978, "Melvin and Howard" in 1980 and "Philadelphia" in 1993.

Despite his prolific film work, Mr. Robards stayed loyal to the theater. "The theater has kept me alive, and it's allowed me to work at my craft," he said in a 1997 interview.

He won a Tony Award for his performance in "The Disenchanted."

Modern movie audiences knew Mr. Robards for his portrayal of Benjamin C. Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post, in "All the President's Men," the story of the Watergate scandal.

In 1997, he played the tyrannical land baron father in "A Thousand Acres," the film adaptation of Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The film featured Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Jason Leigh as his daughters.

In 1999, Mr. Robards was one of five performers selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.

Mr. Robards, who was known as a classical actor, shunned the notion of "method" acting and actors who look for motivation for their stage work.

"I look at the words," he said in a 1993 interview with the Providence Journal-Bulletin. "All I know is, I don't do a lot of analysis. I know those words have to move me. I rely on the author."

He added: "I don't want actors reasoning with me about 'motivation' and all that bull. All I want 'em to do is learn the goddamn lines and don't bump into each other.' "

Mr. Robards was born Jason Nelson Robards Jr. on July 26, 1922, in Chicago. His father, Jason Nelson Robards Sr., was a prominent actor.

Despite his father's prolific career in more than 170 movies, the young Mr. Robards had no interest in acting while he was growing up. At Hollywood High School in Beverly Hills, Mr. Robards was on the baseball, football, basketball and track teams and thought about becoming a professional athlete.

After graduating in 1939, he went on active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve as an apprentice seaman.

While serving in the Pacific, Mr. Robards read some plays by O'Neill and told his father he wanted to try his hand at acting. At his father's urging, Mr. Robards enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1946.

Mr. Robards was married four times--including once to Lauren Bacall--and had six children. In his later years, he lived with his wife of more than 30 years, Lois, in what he once called "a quiet life on the water" in Fairfield, Conn.