Martin Ritt


Director
Martin Ritt

About

Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
March 02, 1914
Died
December 08, 1990
Cause of Death
Heart Disease Complications

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 fr...

Photos & Videos

Edge of the City - Movie Poster
The Long, Hot Summer - Movie Poster
Hud - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Adele Cutler
Wife
Actor. Married 1942.

Bibliography

"The Films of Martin Ritt: Fanfare for the Common Man"
Gabriel Miller, University of Mississippi Press (2000)
"Picking Up the Tab: The Life and Movies of Martin Ritt"
Carlton Jackson, Bowling Green State University Popular Press (1994)
"The Films of Martin Ritt"
Sheila Whitaker (1972)

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.

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 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.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Stanley And Iris (1990)
Director
Nuts (1987)
Director
Murphy's Romance (1985)
Director
Cross Creek (1983)
Director
Back Roads (1981)
Director
Norma Rae (1979)
Director
Casey's Shadow (1978)
Director
The Front (1976)
Director
Conrack (1974)
Director
Pete 'n' Tillie (1972)
Director
Sounder (1972)
Director
The Molly Maguires (1970)
Director
The Great White Hope (1970)
Director
The Brotherhood (1968)
Director
Hombre (1967)
Director
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)
Director
The Outrage (1964)
Director
Hud (1963)
Director
Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962)
Director
Paris Blues (1961)
Director
Five Branded Women (1960)
Director
The Black Orchid (1959)
Director
The Sound and the Fury (1959)
Director
The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
Director
No Down Payment (1957)
Director
Edge of the City (1957)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

50 Years of Action! (1986)
Himself
The Slugger's Wife (1985)
Hollywood On Trial (1976)
Himself
Murder on the Bridge (1975)
Hans Baerlach

Producer (Feature Film)

Murphy's Romance (1985)
Executive Producer
Cross Creek (1983)
Producer
Back Roads (1981)
Producer
The Front (1976)
Producer
Conrack (1974)
Producer
The Molly Maguires (1970)
Producer
Hombre (1967)
Producer
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)
Producer
Hud (1963)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

The Great White Hope (1970)
Company
The Molly Maguires (1970)
Company
The Brotherhood (1968)
Company
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)
Company
The Outrage (1964)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

50 Years of Action! (1986)
Other
Hollywood On Trial (1976)
Other

Cast (Special)

Anthony Quinn (1990)
Broadway Dreamers: The Legacy of the Group Theatre (1989)

Writer (Special)

Norma Rae (1981)
From Film ("Norma Rae")

Special Thanks (Special)

Norma Rae (1981)
From Film ("Norma Rae")

Life Events

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

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"

1951

Blacklisted when targeted as a Communist sympathizer by Senator Joseph McCarthy; fired from directing job at CBS

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

Photo Collections

Edge of the City - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Edge of the City (1957). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Long, Hot Summer - Movie Poster
Here is a Half-Sheet movie poster from Columbia Pictures' The Long, Hot Summer (1958), starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
Hud - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for Hud (1963). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Sounder (1972) - You Got You A Low Life Job Pieces of Cicely Tyson's Academy Award-nominated performance as Louisiana sharecroppers' wife Rebecca, attempting to visit her unjustly jailed husband, with the Sheriff (James Best) and a shopkeeper (Ted Airhart), in Martin Ritt's Sounder, 1972.
Sounder (1972) - In These Hard Times Sharecropper Nathan (Paul Winfield) and wife Rebecca (Cicely Tyson) leading the family home, finding Sheriff Young (James Best) waiting to make a bogus arrest, in Martin Ritt's Sounder, 1972.
Sounder (1972) - Open, Needed Time Opening with the original Lightnin’ Hopkins recording of the song on which Taj Mahal based his score, leading to his first original song, with Paul Winfield as Nathan and Kevin Hooks as David Lee, hunting a raccoon in the dark, on location in Louisiana, opening Martin Ritt's Sounder, 1972.
Sounder (1972) - Baseball Is Your Game Soundtrack composer and performer Taj Mahal (as Ike) lays a decent tag on a base-runner from a pick-off throw by Paul Winfield (as Nathan Lee), Cicely Tyson (as Rebecca) and kids (Kevin Hooks, Eric Hooks) cheering the sharecroppers' team, in Depression-era Louisiana, early in Sounder, 1972.
Sounder (1972) - It's Nathan! Famous scene, David Lee (Kevin Hooks) and Rebecca (Cicely Tyson) shocked to see Nathan (Paul Winfield) returning from jail, John G. Alonzo's photography, in Martin Ritt's Sounder, 1972.
Paris Blues (1961) - Open, Take The A Train "Take The A Train" is the number with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier pretending to play in the opening to the pretty-much all Duke Ellington jazz movie Paris Blues, 1961, directed by Martin Ritt, also starring Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll.
Paris Blues (1961) - Mood Indigo Eddie (Sidney Poitier) conducts Lillian (Joanne Woodward) and Connie (Diahann Carroll) into "Marie's Cave" where band-mate Ram (Paul Newman) sets the hook with Ellington's "Mood Indigo" in Paris Blues, 1961.
Paris Blues (1961) - Where's The Gypsy? American jazz-men Eddie (Sidney Poitier) and Ram (Paul Newman) with three French notables, actor-director Roger Blin as "the Gypsy," a guitar player probably derived from Django Reinhardt, rising star Françoise Brion as his girlfriend and legendary actress Hélène Dieudonne as a pusher, from Paris Blues, 1961.
Paris Blues (1961) - Wild Man Moore Jazz ex-pat Ram (Paul Newman) arrives to meet "Wild Man Moore" (Louis Armstrong) at the train and is pleased to encounter tourists Connie (Diahann Carroll) and Lillian (Joanne Woodward) in Martin Ritt's Paris Blues, 1961.
Hud (1962) - You Can Charge A Stud Fee We follow Brandon De Wilde as Lonnie searching a Texas Panhandle town (director Martin Ritt shooting on location in Vernon, Texas) for his uncle, the notorious womanizer, the title character (Paul Newman), unhappy at being found, and encountering a jealous husband (George Petrie), opening director Martin Ritt’s Hud, 1962.
Hud (1962) - Watch That Cigarette Ash Martin Ritt directs his first scene with two Academy Award winners, as grumpy Paul Newman (title character) and nephew Lonnie (Brandon De Wilde) join father Homer (Melvyn Douglas, Best Supporting Actor) and his housekeeper Alma (Patricia Neal, Best Actress), over an issue at the family cattle ranch, early in Hud, 1962.
Hud (1962) - You're An Unprincipled Man Having just heard from the state authorities that their cattle ranch may need to be quarantined due to a risk of foot-and-mouth disease, Paul Newman (title character) tangles with his father (Melvyn Douglas), the main owner, his nephew (Brandon De Wilde) trying to be neutral, in Hud, 1962.

Trailer

Family

Morris Ritt
Father
Russian Jewish immigrant, educated in Switzerland; served as second mate on ship when he emigrated to America.
Rose Ritt
Mother
Theatrical agent. Jewish immigrant.
Martina Werner
Daughter
Producer, casting agent.
Michael Ritt
Son
Born in 1960.

Companions

Adele Cutler
Wife
Actor. Married 1942.

Bibliography

"The Films of Martin Ritt: Fanfare for the Common Man"
Gabriel Miller, University of Mississippi Press (2000)
"Picking Up the Tab: The Life and Movies of Martin Ritt"
Carlton Jackson, Bowling Green State University Popular Press (1994)
"The Films of Martin Ritt"
Sheila Whitaker (1972)

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.