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|Also Known As:||Herbert David Ross||Died:||October 9, 2001|
|Born:||May 13, 1927||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Brooklyn, New York, USA||Profession:||Director ... director producer dancer choreographer actor|
PeÃ±a) and his gradual descent into madness. Ross took an even bigger gamble with "Pennies from Heaven" (1981), a lavish musical fantasy starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters as star-crossed lovers desperate for love and happiness in Depression-era Chicago. Despite being well-received by the majority of critics, the unconventional narrative combined with Martinâ¿¿s against-type casting left audiences puzzled and the film at the bottom of the box office.
Following two more efforts with Simon â¿¿ the unremarkable "I Ought to Be in Pictures" (1982) and "Max Dugan Returns" (1983) â¿¿ Ross bounced back with yet another dance-themed project, "Footloose" (1984). Set in a small town where dancing is forbidden, the film made lead actor Kevin Bacon a star overnight, boasted a chart-topping soundtrack, and gave Ross his biggest commercial success in years. He returned a few years later with the popular Michael J. Fox comedy "The Secret of My Succe$s" (1987), a hit that only barely offset the vitriol directed at "Dancers" (1987). Another drama set in the world of ballet, "Dancers" starred Mikhail Baryshnikov and was dubbed one of the worst movies of the year by critic Roger Ebert. Far more devastating than any negative review, however, was the death of Rossâ¿¿ beloved wife, business partner and creative muse, Nora Kaye, who succumbed to cancer that year.
Ross enjoyed yet another triumph with "Steel Magnolias" (1989), a heartfelt ensemble drama starring Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts. The film, credited with jump-starting Robertsâ¿¿ fledgling career, further cemented Rossâ¿¿ reputation as a director keenly attuned to female performers. His later directorial efforts included the largely overlooked films "My Blue Heaven" (1990), "True Colors" (1991) and "Undercover Blues" (1993). Ross displayed his facility with strong leading ladies one last time with his final feature, "Boys on the Side" (1995), a road trip melodrama starring Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker and Drew Barrymore. Though he had begun production on a made-for-television remake of "The Magnificent Ambersons" (A&E, 2002), Rossâ¿¿ increasingly poor health forced him to drop out of the project soon after it had begun production. In early 2001, the ailing filmmaker divorced his second wife, socialite Lee Radziwill, the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy, who he had married in 1988. Ross died of heart failure on Oct. 9, 2001 in New York and, as per his wishes, was interred next to Kaye. He was 74 years old.
By Bryce Coleman on stage that night, he immediately set his sights on becoming a dancer.
In the mid-1940s, Ross began his career as a dancer in several Broadway musicals, including "Something for the Boys" and "Laffing Room Only." After creating his own ballet production, "Caprichos" â¿¿ inspired by the paintings of Goya â¿¿ in 1950, Ross began his professional career as a choreographer with the American Ballet Theatre. The following year, he choreographed his first Broadway show with the production of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and continued to create memorable ballets, among them an all-male version of Jean Genetâ¿¿s "The Maids." In 1954, the in-demand Ross choreographed the musical sequences for the Broadway production of "House of Flowers" after providing similar duties on his first film, Oscar Hammersteinâ¿¿s African-American rendition of Bizetâ¿¿s classic opera, "Carmen Jones" (1954), starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge.
Ross made his first tentative steps toward directing for the screen with the made-for-TV movie, "Wonderful Town" (CBS, 1958), starring Rosalind Russell in a role she had originated on Broadway. The following year, Ross married prima ballerina Nora Kaye, who had coincidentally turned down the lead role in his "Caprichos" ballet several years earlier. Among other notable endeavors of the period, he staged the musical numbers for the Broadway smash hit "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" in 1963, the production often credited with making a star of a young Barbara Streisand. In the years to come, Ross and Streisand would work together several more times. Back in film, he provided choreography for such movies as U.K. director Peter Yatesâ¿¿ musical-romance "Summer Holiday" (1963), prior to a dismal attempt at directing his first Broadway production, "Kelly," which closed after a single performance in 1965.
The turning point came when a sudden twist of fate led to Ross making his debut as a feature film director with "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969), a musical remake of the 1939 classic. The warm reception to that film set his career as a movie director in motion, and soon producer Ray Stark â¿¿ with whom he would work closely many more times â¿¿ tapped Ross to direct the comedy, "The Owl and the Pussycat" (1970), starring Streisand in her first non-singing role. He hit his stride in the â¿¿70s with the delirious Woody Allen vehicle "Play It Again, Sam" (1972) â¿¿ a Bogart homage based on Allenâ¿¿s play of the same title. Ross then deftly executed the wit contained in the Anthony Perkins-Stephen Sondheim script for the mystery, "The Last of Sheila" (1973). The cleverly-plotted whodunit â¿¿ boasting a cast that included James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch and Dyan Cannon â¿¿ also marked Rossâ¿¿ debut as a feature film producer, a role he maintained for nearly all of the subsequent pictures he would helm.
Ross went on to direct Streisand once more in "Funny Lady" (1975), in which she reprised the role of comedian Fanny Brice, whom she had portrayed in 1968â¿¿s "Funny Girl" as well as the earlier Broadway sensation of the same name. He later began what would be a string of five film (and two stage) collaborations with writer Neil Simon, with the screen adaptation of Simonâ¿¿s play "The Sunshine Boys" (1975), starring George Burns and Walter Matthau as a pair of bickering, retired vaudevillians. Ross garnered some of the best critical notices of his career for the Sherlock Holmes pastiche "The Seven Per-Cent Solution" (1976), in which the great detective (Nicol Williamson) matches wits with Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin) as he attempts to cure Holmes of his addiction to cocaine.
Ross reached his creative high watermark the following year with a pair of films that would elevate him to elite director status in a one-two punch of critical and commercial success. Acting as co-producer, along with wife Nora Kaye and screenwriter Arthur Laurents, Ross returned to his roots in ballet with "The Turning Point" (1977), the story of two old friends and competitors in the world of dance (Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft) who battle and bond over the affections of MacLaineâ¿¿s daughter. That same year he directed another Neil Simon offering, the box office hit "The Goodbye Girl" (1977). A romantic comedy about an unlucky-in-love single mother (Marsha Mason) and a neurotic struggling actor (Richard Dreyfuss), it charmed audiences as its titular theme song spent weeks on the radio charts. Combined, the two films earned a total of 16 nominations at that yearâ¿¿s Academy Awards ceremony, including one for Ross as Best Director for "Turning Point," which, shockingly, failed to win any of the 11 awards it had been nominated for. Dreyfuss, however, wound up taking home the Best Actor Oscar for his role, while three of the five Best Actress nominees (MacLaine, Bancroft and Mason) were from Rossâ¿¿ two films.
Although Rossâ¿¿ output over the years that followed would not maintain that same level of brilliance and profitability, there were a few notable exceptions yet to come. Another Ross-Simon collaboration, "California Suite" (1978), was a star-studded, lightweight romantic comedy featuring such big names as Jane Fonda, Michael Caine, Walter Matthau, Bill Cosby and Maggie Smith. Two years later, he and Kaye, acting as producer, parlayed his earlier successes into the ambitious biopic "Nijinsky" (1980), the story of the legendary Russian dancer (George De La
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