Gene Saks


Director
Gene Saks

About

Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
November 08, 1921

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 nex...

Family & Companions

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

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)

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 was 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 temporary rift between Saks and Simon.On the big screen, Saks was 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) in the romantic comedy "Cactus Flower" (1969). 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. Following the European love story "A Fine Romance" (1992) starring Julie Andrews and Marcello Mastroianni, Saks' final directing credit came with a TV adaptation of the early '60s Broadway hit "Bye Bye Birdie" (ABC 1995), starring Jason Alexander and Vanessa Williams and hewing closer to the original script than the 1963 film had. Saks made his big-screen farewell with a supporting role in Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) as the title character's father. Gene Saks died of pneumonia at his East Hampton, New York home on March 28, 2015. He was 93.

Life Events

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"

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"

1997

Played supporting role in "Deconstructing Harry"

Photo Collections

The Odd Couple - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for The Odd Couple (1968), starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Prisoner Of Second Avenue, The (1975) - You've Been Tense For A Week! In a Manhattan heat wave, advertising man Mel (Jack Lemmon) awakens and alarms his notably compassionate spouse Edna (Anne Bancroft), in director Melvin Frank's The Prisoner Of Second Avenue, 1975, from Neil Simon's play and screenplay.
Prisoner Of Second Avenue, The (1975) - Open, He Makes Me Nervous! Opening with a convincing sampling of Manhattan (though it doesn’t look like the heat wave the radio commentator, Gary Owens, describes) Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft introduced as the leads, from Neil Simon’s play and screenplay, and no less than F. Murray Abraham driving the cab, in The Prisoner Of Second Avenue, 1975.
Prisoner Of Second Avenue, The (1975) - Plenty Of Ponies In My Time Visiting New Jersey and his wealthier older brother Harry (Gene Saks), Mel (Jack Lemmon) grumbles and finally admits he got laid off at the ad firm, preceding the visit of Edna (Anne Bancroft), who doesn’t know, and Harry’s wife (Maxine Stuart), in the Neil Simon Broadway adaptation The Prisoner Of Second Avenue, 1975.
Cactus Flower (1969) - She's Very Efficient First scene for Ingrid Bergman as nurse Stephanie and Walter Matthau as New York dentist Julian, beginning with a call from the neighbor wanting to tell him his girlfriend (Goldie Hawn, introduced earlier) failed in her slightly kooky suicide attempt, Jack Weston his preoccupied patient, in Cactus Flower, 1969.
Cactus Flower (1969) - I'll Divorce Them Too Dentist Julian (Walter Matthau), after getting a note saying his girlfriend Toni (Goldie Hawn) was planning suicide, arrives to find her alive, then becomes doubtful until he meets neighbor Igor (Rick Lenz), who rescued her, early in Cactus Flower, 1969.
Cactus Flower (1969) - I'm No Sex Goddess Dentist Julian (Walter Matthau), who knows nothing about the personal life of his nurse Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman), explains over drinks that he needs somebody to play the wife he made up, in order to reassure his girlfriend that she’s okay with them getting married, in Cactus Flower, 1969.
Cactus Flower (1969) - Such A Terrible Marriage Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman), nurse to Dr. Winston (Walter Matthau, not seen) has decided to act on his request to pretend to be his fictional, divorce-ready wife, visiting his nutty girlfriend Toni (Goldie Hawn) at work, in a Manhattan record store, in Cactus Flower, 1969.
Cactus Flower (1969) - You'll Meet Her! In Manhattan on their first-ever daytime date, now that they've decided to get married, dentist Julian (Walter Matthau) discovers girlfriend Toni (Goldie Hawn) will insist on meeting his fictional wife, at the Guggenheim, in Cactus Flower, 1969.
Cactus Flower (1969) - Opening, Toni Opening sequence with Sarah Vaughn singing a Quincy Jones original, introducing kooky Greenwich Village Toni (Goldie Hawn, in her Academy Award-winning role), from Cactus Flower, 1969, also starring Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman.
Odd Couple, The - Open, Anything Higher? Neal Hefti's memorable theme starts in the opening title sequence, with distraught Felix (Jack Lemmon) wandering Manhattan, in The Odd Couple, 1968, from Neil Simon's play.
Odd Couple, The (1968) - Little Green Ones Oscar (Walter Matthau) and poker pals (Herb Edelman, John Fiedler, David Sheiner, Larry Haines) pretending they don't know Felix (Jack Lemmon) is suicidal over his failing marriage, early in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, 1968.
Odd Couple, The (1968) - Sinus Condition Now seeking consolation from Oscar (Walter Matthau), booted husband Felix (Jack Lemmon) explains himself in a Manhattan cafe, in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, 1968.

Trailer

Family

Morris J Saks
Father
Beatrix Saks
Mother
Matthew Saks
Son
Actor. Mother, Beatrice Arthur.
Daniel Saks
Son
Set designer. Mother, Beatrice Arthur.

Companions

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

Bibliography

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)