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Gene Saks

Gene Saks

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: November 8, 1921 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: director, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

While primarily noted as a director of stage and screen, Gene Saks actually began his career as an actor. Trained at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (which was a precursor of the Actors Studio), he was a co-founder of an acting troupe in the late 1940s. Saks made his stage debut with the company in "Juno and the Paycock" in 1947 and he went on to spend the next decade and a half in a number of plays and one musical, "South Pacific". By the early 60s, he had begun his directing career with Carl Reiner's play "Enter Laughing" (1963) and went on to excel in staging comedies and musicals, including "Mame" (1966), which made a Broadway musical star of Angela Lansbury and also featured Saks' then-wife Beatrice Arthur, Bernard Slade's romantic comedy "Same Time, Next Year" (1975) with Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin as illicit lovers who tryst on an annual basis and the Cy Coleman musical "I Love My Wife" (1977). But Saks is perhaps best recalled for his long stage association with Neil Simon. The director helped shaped Simon's award-winning autobiographical trilogy ("Brighton Beach Memoirs" 1983, "Biloxi Blues" 1985, and "Broadway Bound" 1986) and guided a number of...

While primarily noted as a director of stage and screen, Gene Saks actually began his career as an actor. Trained at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (which was a precursor of the Actors Studio), he was a co-founder of an acting troupe in the late 1940s. Saks made his stage debut with the company in "Juno and the Paycock" in 1947 and he went on to spend the next decade and a half in a number of plays and one musical, "South Pacific". By the early 60s, he had begun his directing career with Carl Reiner's play "Enter Laughing" (1963) and went on to excel in staging comedies and musicals, including "Mame" (1966), which made a Broadway musical star of Angela Lansbury and also featured Saks' then-wife Beatrice Arthur, Bernard Slade's romantic comedy "Same Time, Next Year" (1975) with Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin as illicit lovers who tryst on an annual basis and the Cy Coleman musical "I Love My Wife" (1977). But Saks is perhaps best recalled for his long stage association with Neil Simon. The director helped shaped Simon's award-winning autobiographical trilogy ("Brighton Beach Memoirs" 1983, "Biloxi Blues" 1985, and "Broadway Bound" 1986) and guided a number of performances to what many critics felt were the performances of their careers. Among the latter were Matthew Broderick in "Brighton Beach Memoirs", Barry Miller in "Biloxi Blues" and Linda Lavin in "Broadway Bound". Additionally, Saks was the director of Simon's farcical "Rumors" (1988) and the playwright's Pulitzer-winning "Lost in Yonkers" (1991). A dispute over the direction of the 1993 stage musical based on "The Goodbye Girl" led to a rift between Saks and Simon which has reportedly been healed.

On the big screen, Saks has been both actor and director. In the former capacity, he was featured in films adapted from two Herb Gardner plays, "A Thousand Clowns" (1965) and "The Goodbye People" (1984) as well as one based on Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1974). In 1994, he had two prominent supporting roles as Paul Newman's lawyer friend in "Nobody's Fool" and as a colleague of Walter Matthau's Albert Einstein in "I.Q." Under Saks' direction, Robert Redford in "Barefoot in the Park" (1967) first demonstrated his easy charm and comedic abilities while Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau seemed near-perfect as Felix and Oscar in "The Odd Couple" (1968). Goldie Hawn earned an Oscar for her performance as the giddy object of affections for a dentist (Matthau). One prominent misfire was the big screen version of "Mame" (1974) which featured a miscast Lucille Ball in the title role and Beatrice Arthur and Jane Connell reprising their stage roles.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Bye Bye Birdie (1995) Director
2.
  Fine Romance, A (1991) Director
3.
  Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986) Director
4.
  Mame (1974) Director
5.
6.
  Cactus Flower (1969) Director
7.
  The Odd Couple (1968) Director
8.
  Barefoot in the Park (1967) Director
9.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Deconstructing Harry (1997) Harry'S Father
2.
 On Seventh Avenue (1996) Sol Jacobs; Sol
3.
 Nobody's Fool (1994) Wirf
4.
 I.Q. (1994) Boris Podolsky
5.
 Funny (1989) Director
6.
 Goodbye People, The (1984) Marcus Soloway
7.
 Lovesick (1983) Frantic Patient
8.
 One And Only, The (1978) Sidney Seltzer
9.
10.
 A Thousand Clowns (1965) Leo
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Formed co-operative acting troupe at Cherry Lane Theatre in late 1940s
1947:
New York stage debut as actor, "Juno and the Paycock" off-Broadway
1963:
Began directing on Broadway with "Enter Laughing"
1965:
Film acting debut, "A Thousand Clowns"
1966:
Won critical praise for staging the musical "Mame"
1967:
Film directorial debut "Barefoot in the Park"; also first collaboration with Neil Simon
1969:
Helmed the film comedy "Cactus Flower", starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn in her Oscar-winning role
1971:
First stage acting appearance in nearly ten years, "The Goodbye People" at Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, MA
1974:
Had supporting role in the film version of Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue"
1974:
Helmed the film version of "Mame", starring Lucille Ball
1983:
Directed and acted in the ABC special "Love, Sex, and Marriage"
:
Was director of the trilogy of Simon's semi-autobiographical plays, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983), "Broadway Bound" (1985) and "Biloxi Blues" (1988)
1984:
Acted in Herb Gardner's feature adaptation of "The Goodbye People"
1991:
Staged Simon's Pulitzer-winning "Lost in Yonkers"
1993:
Fired from pre-Broadway tryout of Simon's musical "The Goodbye Girl" in Chicago
1994:
Had supporting role in the films "Nobody's Fool" and "I.Q."
1995:
Directed the TV adaptation of "Bye Bye Birdie" (ABC)
1996:
Co-starred in the NBC TV-movie "On Seventh Avenue"
1997:
Directed Christopher Plummer in the one-man show "Barrymore"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research: New York , New York -
Actors Studio: New York , New York -
Cornell University: Ithaca , New York - 1943

Notes

"All thing happen by chance in this business, but after I started directing I seemed to have no time for acting. I always thought that was a pity, since I'm a good actor and enjoy doing it." --Gene Saks quoted in Newsday, February 12, 1995.

He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame (1991)

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Beatrice Arthur. Actor. Directed her on stage in "Mame" and "A Mother's Kisses"; married May 28, 1950; divorced.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Morris J Saks.
mother:
Beatrix Saks.
son:
Matthew Saks. Actor. Mother, Beatrice Arthur.
son:
Daniel Saks. Set designer. Mother, Beatrice Arthur.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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