Frank Rich Profile
In 2011 Rich left the Times to become an essayist and editor-at-large for New York magazine, where his columns cover politics, current events and a range of popular culture including literature, theater and movies. He is also a commentator on nymag.com, engaging in regular discussions of news of the day. Rich serves as executive producer of the HBO series Veep and has published the books Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for The New York Times (1998), The Theatre Art of Boris Aronson (co-authored by Lisa Aronson, 1987), Ghost Light: A Memoir (2000) and The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina (2006). Rich is married to Alexandra Rachelle Witchel, who writes for The New York times as Alex Witchel. He has two sons from a previous marriage, comedy writer Simon Rich and novelist Nathaniel Rich.
Rich says he still loves the movies, goes all the time and, on TCM, enjoys "rediscovering films that I've seen all my life and looking at them again because as you change and get older you have different perspectives." When it comes to programming picks, his eclectic choices seem to reflect the diversity of his professional experience. He considers that The Palm Beach Story (1942) is "maybe the flat-out funniest" of the films of writer-director Preston Sturges, who had "this wonderful facility for writing the wittiest dialogue and at the same time constructing screwball comedy plots." For Rich, this Sturges film "is just pure mirth with, of course, great performances" - not only from stars Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea but an ace supporting cast including Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, William Demarest and Franklin Pangborn.
John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Rich says, "had a riveting effect on me when it first came out - I must have been 12 or 13. It was the height of the Cold War. Besides being a really impeccable thriller with lots of twists and surprises, and a lot of puzzles you have to figure out along the way, it captured the mood of the McCarthy era which the country was then coming out of - and twisted it... Growing up in the nation's capitol, I thought, 'Oh, this is the real story; this is what they're not telling me!'" He also admires the script by George Axelrod and the performance of Angela Lansbury, "playing this monstrous mother."
The Rules of the Game (1939), from French writer-director Jean Renoir, is "in one way a light comedy about a weekend in the county - a lot of fancy people having affairs at a fancy estate in France," says Rich. And yet it also reflects "a whole society that was disintegrating - a society Renoir described as rotten, the sort of bourgeois upper-crust France of his time. What he saw was a country that Hitler was going to march into, that was going to have a real crisis of the soul and not always behave at its best during the occupation." Rich considers this to be Renoir's greatest work, and "one of the best films ever made."
If The Rules of the Game captures the disintegration of French society during World War II, Rich feels that Richard Lester's Petulia (1968) does something similar for America during "that period when the late '60s were just about to go completely off the rails, with violent political protests and a sort of meltdown of society. It also has a very touching story about failed connections between adults." And it also has Julie Christie, a particular favorite of Rich's because she's "one of the most beautiful women in the history of the world, as well as the cinema," with "great wit, great intelligence and great passion."
By Roger Fristoe