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Overview for Martha Coolidge
Martha Coolidge

Martha Coolidge


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Also Known As: Died:
Born: August 17, 1946 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New Haven, Connecticut, USA Profession: Director ... director screenwriter editor producer singer actor


A proficient director of mainstream Hollywood fare, Martha Coolidge began her career in her native Connecticut as a stage actress appearing with a local theater company. While attending the Rhode Island School of Design, she began to make films and found her true calling, turning out six student films. After further studies at NYC's School of Visual Arts and at Columbia University, she landed her first professional gig as a writer and producer of the Canadian daily children's show "Magic Tom." Returning to the USA, Coolidge enrolled at NYU's Institute of Film and Television and went on to turn out several award-winning documentary portraits, including two of family members, "David: On and Off" (1972), about her brother, and "Old Fashioned Woman" (1974), about her grandmother. These, along with the pseudo-documentary "Not a Pretty Picture" (1976) which reconstructed her high school date rape, helped establish her reputation as a filmmaker.

Coolidge first broke into Hollywood studios as a screenwriter receiving credit as one of several writers who contributed the story to the spy comedy "The Omega Connection" (1979). Her directorial debut, "Valley Girl" (1983), proved to be an above average teen comedy and quickly established her as one to watch. She had elicited a fine comic turn from Nicolas Cage in that film and her sophomore effort, "The City Girl" (1984) was an underrated gem featuring fine work from Laura Harrington as the titular character, a photographer with a penchant for unwise romantic pairings. With her growing reputation as an actor's director and given a "big budget" ($13 million), Coolidge helmed "Real Genius" (1985), a smart satire that featured a star-making turn by Val Kilmer and gave William Atherton a meaty supporting role. If overall the film was somewhat lacking in consistent character development, it did provide solid laughs and boded well for its director. Further adding to her reputation was "Rambling Rose" (1991), a meticulously performed character piece about an eccentric Southern family and their housemaid. The mother and daughter team of Diane Ladd and Laura Dern each received Oscar nominations under Coolidge's assured handling.

An active member of the Directors Guild of America, Coolidge divided her time between TV and features and working within the union. While her film work in the 1990s hasn't exactly yielded a blockbuster, she has done yeoman work, often giving actresses rare chances to shine: consider Mercedes Ruehl in "Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers" (1993), Geena Davis in "Angie" (1994) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in "Three Wishes" (1995). Even in "Out to Sea" (1997), a film built around the comic pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, Elaine Stritch, Rue McClanahan, Dyan Cannon and Gloria DeHaven won critical kudos. Coolidge continued to demonstrate an affinity for pulling strong performances from her leading ladies in her small screen work as well. Her best-known telefilms were "Crazy in Love" (TNT, 1992), which focused on three generations of women (Herta Ware, Gena Rowlands and Holly Hunter) in the Pacific Northwest, and "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" (HBO, 1999), a biopic of the black sex symbol produced by and starring Halle Berry.

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