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Martin Ritt

Martin Ritt

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The Great White Hope DVD The action in this disturbing and entertaining 1970 drama comes to blows with... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

The Long, Hot Summer DVD "...Strikingly directed...Steamy with sex." -Martin Ritt, VarietyDirected by... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

Cross Creek DVD "Cross Creek" (1983) is inspired by one woman's true story of adventure to a new... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

Awake And Sing! DVD Academy Award-winning legend Walter Matthau stars in this television adaptation... more info $24.99was $24.99 Buy Now

Back Roads DVD This absorbing romantic drama is full of humor and first-rate performances.... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold: The... John Le Carre's acclaimed bestselling novel, about a Cold War spy on one final,... more info $39.95was $39.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: Died: December 8, 1990
Born: March 2, 1914 Cause of Death: heart disease complications
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: director, actor, acting teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

In a 1987 article in The New Republic, critic Stanley Kaufman wrote that Martin Ritt "is one of the most underrated American directors, superbly competent and quietly imaginative." While his films generally revolved around moral themes and he did not develop a particular visual style, Ritt became noted as a superlative craftsman with a particular affinity for actors, stemming no doubt from his own long and distinguished performing career. Indeed, he guided a baker's dozen of performers to Oscar nominations with three (Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas in "Hud" 1963 and Sally Field in "Norma Rae" 1979) taking home the statue. Born and raised in NYC, Ritt had originally considered a career in law until he was persuaded by Elia Kazan to work with the Group Theater. His Broadway debut was in the Group's production of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy", on which he also served as assistant stage manager and understudy to lead John Garfield. Over the next five years, Ritt worked steadily with them until he was called for military service in the US Army Air Force Special Forces during WWII. Utilizing his theatrical background, he appeared with the landmark stage production "Winged Victory" and made his feature...

In a 1987 article in The New Republic, critic Stanley Kaufman wrote that Martin Ritt "is one of the most underrated American directors, superbly competent and quietly imaginative." While his films generally revolved around moral themes and he did not develop a particular visual style, Ritt became noted as a superlative craftsman with a particular affinity for actors, stemming no doubt from his own long and distinguished performing career. Indeed, he guided a baker's dozen of performers to Oscar nominations with three (Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas in "Hud" 1963 and Sally Field in "Norma Rae" 1979) taking home the statue. Born and raised in NYC, Ritt had originally considered a career in law until he was persuaded by Elia Kazan to work with the Group Theater. His Broadway debut was in the Group's production of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy", on which he also served as assistant stage manager and understudy to lead John Garfield. Over the next five years, Ritt worked steadily with them until he was called for military service in the US Army Air Force Special Forces during WWII. Utilizing his theatrical background, he appeared with the landmark stage production "Winged Victory" and made his feature acting debut in the 1944 film version of that play. After his discharge, Ritt made the move to directing with 1946's "Mr. Peebles and Mr. Hooker" at NYC's Music Box Theatre.

Television was in the flourishing of the so-called Golden Age and Ritt segued to small screen work, acting in over 150 live productions and directing about 100 others. His prolific career was curtailed by the government, however, when he was one of the many artists targeted as communists by Senator Joseph McCarthy. When CBS fired Ritt, he moved to teaching at the Actors Studio, where he numbered Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Rod Steiger and Lee Remick among his students. Resuming his directing career with stage work in the mid-50s, Ritt caught the attention of producer David Susskind who hired him to helm the 1957 feature "Edge of the City", a gritty waterfront drama starring Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes that earned high critical praise.

Ritt went on to demonstrate his skill as a meticulous craftsman capable of eliciting fine ensemble performances and of tackling important and controversial social issues in an intelligent--if sometimes heavy-handed--manner. Highlights of his career include the adaptation of various William Faulkner short stories, "The Long Hot Summer" (1958), which marked the first of many collaborations with screenwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr; "Hud", which helped define the emerging "anti-hero" (Paul Newman) and earned Ritt his sole Oscar nomination as Best Director, and "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" (1965), an adaptation of the John le Carre novel featuring a fine central performance by Richard Burton.

In 1972. Ritt directed the landmark "Sounder", one of the first films to look at the travails of a poor Southern black family in a humanizing way. That same year, he also directed "Pete 'n' Tillie", a middling romance teaming Walter Matthau and Carol Burnett. Ritt was perhaps at his most heavy-handed and on-the-nose with "Conrack" (1974), based on Pat Conroy's autobiographical novel, in which Jon Voight starred as a dedicated white teacher assigned to an island near Beaufort, South Carolina where all the children are black and neglected. The director reteamed with Walter Matthau on "Casey's Shadow" (1978), a light-hearted tale of horse racing before he tackled the biopic "Cross Creek" (1983), which featured Mary Steenburgen as author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Ritt's swan song was "Nuts" (1987), a courtroom drama adapted from a Broadway play that became a vehicle for Barbra Streisand.

Ritt's serio-comic film on the travails of blacklisted writers, "The Front" (1976), drew on his own experiences in the early 1950s. His "Norma Rae" (1979), for which Sally Field won an Oscar as best actress, championed union organizing, and his last film, "Stanley and Iris" (1989) inveighed against illiteracy. He also directed Sally Field a second time in the warm "Murphy's Romance" (1985), which Rich also co-executive produced. Ritt threw in a few acting roles in his later years. He appeared in the German "End of the Game" (1975), and in a substantial supporting role in "The Slugger's Wife" as a Casey Stengel-esque baseball manager. Passionately political to the end, Ritt died of heart disease.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Stanley And Iris (1990) Director
2.
  Nuts (1987) Director
3.
  Murphy's Romance (1985) Director
4.
  Cross Creek (1983) Director
5.
  Back Roads (1981) Director
6.
  Norma Rae (1979) Director
7.
  Casey's Shadow (1978) Director
8.
  The Front (1976) Director
9.
  Conrack (1974) Director
10.
  Pete 'n' Tillie (1972) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 50 Years of Action! (1986) Himself
2.
 Slugger's Wife, The (1985) Burly Devito
3.
 Hollywood On Trial (1976) Himself
4.
 Murder on the Bridge (1975) Hans Baerlach
5.
 Anthony Quinn (1990)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Stage debut as Crown in summer production of "Porgy and Bess" while attending St John's University
1937:
Appeared in Group Theater productions
1937:
Broadway debut in a walk-on part in the Group Theater production of "Golden Boy"; also was assistant stage manager and understudied John Garfield in the lead role
:
Served with US Army Air Force Special Forces during WWII; appeared in servicemen's stage production, "Winged Victory"
1944:
Film acting debut, "Winged Victory"
1944:
Stage directorial debut with all-soldier production of "Yellow Jack" (date approximate)
1946:
Directed first Broadway play, "Mr. Pebbles and Mr. Hooker"
:
Directed 100 dramas and acted in 150 shows on live TV on CBS
1951:
Blacklisted when targeted as a Communist sympathizer by Senator Joseph McCarthy; fired from directing job at CBS
:
Taught at Actors Studio (students included Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Rod Steiger)
1954:
Returned to stage directing with Philadelphia revivals of "Golden Boy", "Boy Meets Girl" and "The Front Page"
1954:
Acted in Broadway production of Odets' "The Flowering Peach", based on the story of Noah and the ark
1955:
Returned to Broadway stage directing Arthur Miller's "A Memory of Two Mondays" and "A View from the Bridge"
1957:
Film directing debut, "Edge of the City"
1958:
Helmed "The Long Hot Summer", starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
1959:
Directed the screen adaptation of William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury"
1963:
Received only Academy Award nomination for Best Director for "Hud"; also co-produced; stars Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas won Oscars and Paul Newman received a Best Actor nomination
1965:
Directed Richard Burton to an Oscar nomination for "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold"; also produced
1967:
Produced and directed "Hombre", starring Newman
1970:
Helmed "The Molly Maguires", the fact-based drama about striking American coal miners written by fellow blacklist survivor Walter Bernstein; Sean Connery and Richard Harris starred
1970:
Directed the film version of the stage hit "The Great White Hope"; leading players James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander both earned Oscar nominations
1972:
"Sounder" leads Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson each received Academy Award nominations under his direction; supporting player Geraldine Page also cited for her work in "Pete 'n' Tillie" under his helming
1974:
Helmed the adaptation of Pat Conroy's autobiographical novel "Conrack", starring Jon Voight
1976:
Returned to acting in "End of the Game"
1976:
Was interviewed for the Oscar-nominated documentary about the blacklist called "Hollywood on Trial"
1976:
Explored blacklisting as producer and director of "The Front", scripted by Walter Bernstein
1979:
Directed and co-produced "Norma Rae", featuring a tour de force performance by Sally Field who won an Academy Award
1981:
Reteamed with Field for the less successful "Back Roads"
1983:
Helmed the biopic of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. "Cross Creek", starring Mary Steenburgen; supporting players Rip Torn and Alfre Woodard nominated for Academy Awards
1985:
Named distinguished director in residence, UCLA College of Fine Arts
1985:
Resumed acting career playing the baseball manager in "The Slugger's Wife", directed by Hal Ashby and written by Neil Simon
1985:
Third film with Field, "Murphy's Romance"; leading man James Garner earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination
1987:
Helmed the screen adaptation of the play "Nuts", about a call girl accused of murder; film starred Barbra Streisand
1990:
Directed final film, "Stanley & Iris", a love story teaming Robert De Niro and Jane Fonda
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Rhodes Preparatory School: New York , New York -
DeWitt Clinton High School: New York , New York -
St John's University: Brooklyn , New York -
Elon College: Burlington , North Carolina - 1934

Notes

"He believed absolutely in the primacy of content. And his films ... are almost without exception eulogies to the human spirit. Film after film of Marty's has one overriding theme. They're about people fighting to remain human and to become more human, and to fight for the right to their humanity." --Walter Bernstein in a memorial to Ritt, December 17, 1990.

"Mr. Ritt directed his camera the way he directed actors, with restraint, favoring a linear, sequential technique and eschewing flashy camera angles and shots and editing. 'I don't use the zoom unless that's the only way I can get into a scene,' Ritt once said. 'The audience shouldn't be aware of the director's work until the movie's over.'" --Peter B. Flint in Ritt's New York Times obituary December 11, 1990.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Adele Cutler. Actor. Married 1942.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Morris Ritt. Russian Jewish immigrant, educated in Switzerland; served as second mate on ship when he emigrated to America.
mother:
Rose Ritt. Theatrical agent. Jewish immigrant.
daughter:
Martina Werner. Producer, casting agent.
son:
Michael Ritt. Born in 1960.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Films of Martin Ritt"
"Picking Up the Tab: The Life and Movies of Martin Ritt" Bowling Green State University Popular Press
"The Films of Martin Ritt: Fanfare for the Common Man" University of Mississippi Press

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