Richard Brooks


Director
Richard Brooks

About

Birth Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born
May 18, 1912
Died
March 11, 1992
Cause of Death
Congestive Heart Failure

Biography

A pioneering figure in independent filmmaking, writer-director Richard Brooks applied his journalistic background to his feature film career, in which he explored the best and worst in human behavior in films like "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), "The Professionals" (1966) and "In Cold Blood" (1967). Brooks moved from newspaper man and radio writer to penni...

Photos & Videos

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Sweet Bird of Youth - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Blackboard Jungle - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Harriett Levin
Wife
Married in 1945.
Jean Simmons
Wife
Actor. Born on January 31, 1929; previously married to Stewart Granger; married in 1960; directed her in "Elmer Gantry" and "The Happy Ending"; separated in 1977.

Bibliography

"The Producer"
Richard Brooks (1951)
"The Brick Foxhole"
Richard Brooks (1944)
"The Boiling Point"
Richard Brooks
"My Best Gal"
Richard Brooks

Notes

"Called 'God's angry man' by fellow writer Fay Kanin, Brooks frequently made films exposing social and moral conditions he deplored, alternating these with weighty literary properties and the occasional romance or comedy. Peter O'Toole called him 'the man who lived at the top of his voice.'" --Todd McCarthy in Brooks' obituary in Variety. March 16, 1992.

Brooks has defended his alteration of literary works for his films: "The novel and the screen are very different story-telling media. Short of putting the book in front of a camera and filming the text direct, page for page, any novel must necessarily undergo critical changes. Indeed, one hallmark of a good novel is the fact that it cannot be made into a good picture without changes. And it is equally true that a novel filmed scene for scene will not be a good movie. Nor would a good film make a good novel if it were literally and painstakingly transformed to the written word." --quoted in "Hollywood Directors 1941-76", edited by Richard Koszarski (1977)

Biography

A pioneering figure in independent filmmaking, writer-director Richard Brooks applied his journalistic background to his feature film career, in which he explored the best and worst in human behavior in films like "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), "The Professionals" (1966) and "In Cold Blood" (1967). Brooks moved from newspaper man and radio writer to penning scripts for noir films like "Brute Force" (1947) and "Key Largo" (1948), where he honed his talent for characters who operated on both sides of the law. After graduating to director in the 1950s, he earned an Oscar for writing "Elmer Gantry" (1960) and nominations for writing and directing "Blackboard," "Cat," and "The Professionals" before writing and directing his masterwork, the black-and-white docudrama "In Cold Blood" (1967). The film also served as the coda for his career, as Brooks would try and fail to meet its standard of quality for much of the next two decades. His best work, however, would stand the test of time, and ensure him a spot among the cinematic immortals.

Born Ruben Sax on May 18, 1912, he was the son of Russian Jews who immigrated to Philadelphia, PA. Journalism became his focus as a student at Temple University. Brooks worked first as a sports reporter for newspapers in New York and Atlantic City, where he met and befriended Samuel Fuller, another writer who would later turn to directing in the 1950s. Radio became his next medium, and he worked as a staff writer for the NBC network before trying his hand at directing for stage at the Mill Pond Theatre in New York. In the 1940s, he began writing novels, as well as screenplays for various low-budget genre films, including the delirious costume epic "Cobra Woman" (1944) with Maria Montez. His artistic pursuits were interrupted when Brooks joined the U.S. Marines to serve in World War II.

Upon his return, Brooks began writing noir thrillers for the studios, which helped him gain a reputation for stories filled with morally ambiguous characters who fought against tyrannical forces with unflinching violence. Among his early efforts were such classics of the genre as "The Killers" (1946), for which he provided an uncredited polish, and the gritty prison drama "Brute Force" (1947) for director Jules Dassin. That same year, his fifth novel, The Brick Foxhole (1945), was adapted into the feature "Crossfire" (1947). Brooks received credit for the script written by John Paxton, who changed the story's central crime - the murder of a gay man by a group of discharged Marines - to a killing motivated by anti-Semitism. After penning the script for "Key Largo" (1948) with director John Huston, Brooks moved into the director's chair as well. His debut came with 1950's "Crisis," a thriller with Cary Grant playing a rare dramatic role as a brain surgeon pressed into saving the life of a South American dictator (Jose Ferrer).

As writer-director, Brooks hewed closely to the tense dramas and thrillers that had made his reputation as a screenwriter. "Key Largo" star Humphrey Bogart became his leading man of choice for several pictures, and his world-weary screen persona brought both gravitas and humanity to films like "Deadline U.S.A." (1952), which tipped a hat to Brooks' newspaper career with its story of crusading reporter (Bogart) and his attempt to bring down a gangster before his paper is sold. Brooks also handled several romances, like F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Last Time I Saw Paris" (1954), with Van Johnson as a former Stars and Stripes reporter who returned to Paris and a love affair with Elizabeth Taylor. In 1955, he made headlines with "The Blackboard Jungle," an examination of school violence and juvenile delinquency with Glenn Ford as an inner city schoolteacher pitted against a hostile student body that included Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow and Paul Mazursky. The film, which featured Bill Haley and the Comets' single "Rock Around the Clock" as its theme, was accused of fueling teenaged riots in theaters. Not surprisingly, the film's publicity helped earn Haley a No. 1 record and Brooks an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.

In the 1960s, Brooks moved away from crime and war pictures to helm stories on a larger canvas, several of which were drawn from Broadway or literature. However, many of these "A" pictures shared the same themes as his genre work. He tackled the subject of ambition and familial bonds in an adaptation of Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" (1958), which he co-wrote with "Casablanca" (1942) authors Julius and Philip Epstein. Brooks' radical rewrite of Sinclair Lewis' "Elmer Gantry" (1960), with Burt Lancaster as a hell-raising preacher and Jean Simmons - who was married to Brooks at the time - as his seemingly angelic lover, earned the writer-director a 1960 Oscar for Best Screenplay. He also tackled two of Tennessee Williams' most celebrated plays, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman, which earned him Best Director and Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominations, and "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962), with Geraldine Page and Ed Begley in an Oscar-winning turn.

In 1965, Brooks stepped away from Hollywood to become an independent entity, producing, writing and directing his own work. His first effort in this capacity was "Lord Jim" (1965), an adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel about a young English seaman (Peter O'Toole) who attempts to redeem himself after being branded a coward during wartime. The picture was met with mixed reviews, but Brooks rebounded with a pair of critical and box office hits. "The Professionals" (1966) featured Burt Lancaster leading Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode on a mission to rescue the kidnapped wife (Claudia Cardinale) of a wealthy rancher. A rousing action film, it earned Brooks Oscar nominations for direction and screenplay. Bookending his triumphs, he followed with "In Cold Blood," Brooks' stark adaptation of Truman Capote's non-fiction novel about the brutal murder of a Kansas family by two hapless drifters (Robert Blake and Scott Wilson). Brooks shot the film on many of the actual locations, which heightened its chilling documentary aesthetic; the picture would earn Brooks Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, and would serve as a primary influence on the true crime stories that followed in its wake.

Unfortunately, "In Cold Blood" would also be Brooks' last film of note. His follow-up, "The Happy Ending" (1969), with Jean Simmons as a middle-aged, middle-class woman attempting to find herself, was ignored by critics, while 1971's "$" (Dollars), a breezy caper comedy with Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn, won critical praise but failed to find audience. "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (1977) was his last hit, but the violent thriller, about a teacher (Diane Keaton) whose search for sexual freedom makes her the target of a psychopath, was roundly criticized for its repressive approach towards female sexuality. Brooks would direct only two films during the 1980s; both were substantial failures. "Wrong is Right" (1982) was a scabrous black comedy about a newscaster (Sean Connery) uncovering government corruption while tracking a pair of stolen nuclear devices, while "Fever Pitch" (1985) harkened back to his journalistic past in its story of reporter Ryan O'Neal and his growing addiction to gambling, which develops while he investigates the subject. Brooks would then provide his perspective on Hollywood and filmmaking for various documentaries before his death from congestive heart failure in 1992.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Fever Pitch (1985)
Director
Wrong Is Right (1982)
Director
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Director
Bite the Bullet (1975)
Director
$ (1971)
Director
The Happy Ending (1969)
Director
In Cold Blood (1967)
Director
The Professionals (1966)
Director
Lord Jim (1965)
Director
Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)
Director
Elmer Gantry (1960)
Director
The Brothers Karamazov (1958)
Director
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Director
Something of Value (1957)
Director
The Last Hunt (1956)
Director
The Catered Affair (1956)
Director
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Director
Flame and the Flesh (1954)
Director
The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954)
Director
Battle Circus (1953)
Director
Take the High Ground! (1953)
Director
Deadline--U.S.A. (1952)
Director
The Light Touch (1951)
Director
Crisis (1950)
Director
With the Marines at Tarawa (1944)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

MGM: When the Lion Roars (1992)
Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (1990)
Himself
Bacall On Bogart (1988)
50 Years of Action! (1986)
Himself
Elizabeth Taylor: An Intimate Portrait (1975)

Cinematography (Feature Film)

The Concert for Bangladesh (1972)
Photography

Writer (Feature Film)

Fever Pitch (1985)
Screenplay
Wrong Is Right (1982)
Screenplay
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Screenwriter
Bite the Bullet (1975)
Screenplay
$ (1971)
Writer
The Happy Ending (1969)
Screenwriter
In Cold Blood (1967)
Screenwriter
The Professionals (1966)
Screenwriter
Lord Jim (1965)
Screenwriter
Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)
Screenwriter
Elmer Gantry (1960)
Screenwriter
The Brothers Karamazov (1958)
Screenwriter
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Screenwriter
Something of Value (1957)
Screenwriter
The Last Hunt (1956)
Screenwriter
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Screenwriter
The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954)
Screenwriter
Battle Circus (1953)
Screenwriter
Deadline--U.S.A. (1952)
Writer
The Light Touch (1951)
Written for Screen by
Storm Warning (1951)
Writer
Crisis (1950)
Screenwriter
Mystery Street (1950)
Screenwriter
Any Number Can Play (1949)
Screenwriter
Key Largo (1948)
Screenwriter
To the Victor (1948)
Writer
Swell Guy (1947)
Screenwriter
Brute Force (1947)
Screenwriter
Cobra Woman (1944)
Screenwriter
My Best Gal (1944)
Original Story
White Savage (1943)
Screenwriter
Sin Town (1942)
Additional Dialogue
Men of Texas (1942)
Additional Dialogue

Producer (Feature Film)

Wrong Is Right (1982)
Producer
Bite the Bullet (1975)
Producer
The Happy Ending (1969)
Producer
In Cold Blood (1967)
Producer
The Professionals (1966)
Producer
Lord Jim (1965)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Lord Jim (1965)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (1990)
Other
Moonwalker (1989)
Other
Heavy Petting (1988)
Other
50 Years of Action! (1986)
Other
My Favorite Year (1982)
Other

Cast (Special)

Cary Grant: The Leading Man (1988)
The American Film Institute Salute to John Huston (1983)
Performer

Life Events

1932

Landed job as a sportwriter with the Phildelphia Record

1940

Founded theater company, "The Mill Pond Theatre" (with David Loew) in Roslyn, New York; made directing debut when the two took turns directing the plays they produced there during summer

1942

Feature film debut as additional dialogue writer, "Sin Town" and "Men of Texas"

1943

Wrote first feature, "White Savage"

1943

Returned to radio writing including parts for Orson Welles

1943

Joined US Marine Corps.

1945

Wrote first novel, "The Brick Foxhole", while in Marines

1946

Signed with MGM

1947

"The Brick Foxhole" filmed by Edward Dmytryk as "Crossfire"; screenwriter John Paxton changed novel's murder victim from a homosexual to a Jew

1950

Directed first feature, "Crisis"

1965

Became an independent producer with "Lord Jim"

1977

Mortgaged home to make "Looking for Mr. Goodbar"

1985

Wrote and directed final film, "The Fever"

Photo Collections

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1958), starring Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives, and directed by Richard Brooks.
Sweet Bird of Youth - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are some photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), starring Paul Newman and Geraldine Page, and directed by Richard Brooks.
Blackboard Jungle - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Blackboard Jungle (1955), directed by Richard Brooks and starring Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, and Sidney Poitier.
Battle Circus - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for Battle Circus (1953). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
Crisis - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes of Crisis (1950), directed by Richard Brooks.

Videos

Movie Clip

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) - We Occupy the Same Cage The drunk and injured Brick (Paul Newman) rejects his wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) in director Richard Brooks' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958, from the Tennessee Williams play.
Any Number Can Play (1949) - Always Coming To Bat With The Bases Loaded Clark Gable as family-man casino owner Charlie, with former flame and customer Ada (Mary Astor), who interrupted him during a heart-trouble episode he's keeping secret, has already made clear he's not running away with her, but they discuss it anyway, in Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Any Number Can Play (1949) - Out In The Rain With My Secret Lover Joining the first scene in the household of leading man Clark Gable, who plays high-end underground casino owner Charlie, we meet Audrey Totter as Alice, the live-in sister of his wife Lon (Alexis Smith), and her husband, Wendell Corey as Robbin, who works for Charlie, with two goons (Richard Rober, William Conrad) appearing, in director Mervyn LeRoy’s Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Professionals, The (1966) - My Heart Was Lighter After credits and an elaborate assembling of the squad, wealthy Grant (Ralph Bellamy) explains the job to Fardan (Lee Marvin), Ehrengard (Robert Ryan) and Sharp (Woody Strode), in Richard Brooks' The Professionals, 1966.
Professionals, The (1966) - Who Are The Good Guys? Revolutionary and bandit Raza (Jack Palance) finishing off his job, his ex-compadres turned enemies Fardan (Lee Marvin) and Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) observing, explaining to their new guy Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), in The Professionals, 1966.
Professionals, The (1966) - Very Bad Hombres In Mexico on their mission to rescue a kidnapped bride, Fardan (Lee Marvin), Dolworth (Burt Lancaster), Ehrengard (Robert Ryan) and Sharp (Woody Strode) encounter their first trouble, in Richard Brooks' The Professionals, 1966.
Professionals, The (1966) - It's Not Dignified Fardan (Lee Marvin), Ehrengard (Robert Ryan) and Sharp (Woody Strode) discover a clue left by Dolworth (Burt Lancaster), who's run into trouble while scouting ahead, followed by a sardonic rescue, in Richard Brooks' The Professionals, 1966.
Professionals, The (1966) - For The Revolution Reluctantly rescued Maria (Claudia Cardinale) caring for wounded Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), tangling with Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) and Fardan (Lee Marvin), who've been hired to bring her back to her American husband, in The Professionals, 1966.
Any Number Can Play (1949) - Washing Dollar Bills Tight, polished opening from director Mervyn LeRoy and Richard Brooks’ screenplay, casino staffers Sleigh (Caleb Peterson), Pete (Mickey Knox) and Ed (Edgar Buchanan), joined by higher-up Tycoon (Barry Sullivan), wonder where their boss (whom we’ll learn is Clark Gable) might be, in Any Number Can Play, 1949, from MGM and producer Arthur Freed.
Any Number Can Play (1949) - A Fancy Latin Name For It We’ve just met leading man Clark Gable as Charlie, well-regarded family man and owner of a high-end underground casino, and Leon Ames has been snuck in to meet him in private, the nature of their business revealed, early in MGM’s Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Any Number Can Play (1949) - What Are You Gonna Give Up Next? Wendell Corey as dissolute card-dealer Robbie admits Clark Gable as Charlie, his employer, brother-in-law and casino owner, who arrives unexpectedly at home enthusing about fishing, for Audrey Totter as sister-in-law Alice, and Alexis Smith as Lon, lady of the house, in MGM’s Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Deadline-U.S.A. (1952) - Open, You Got Elected! Opening credits and a vignette of corruption featuring Martin Gabel (as gangster "Rienzi") from ex-newsman Richard Brooks' newspaper drama Deadline-U.S.A., 1952, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ethel Barrymore.

Trailer

Blackboard Jungle - (Vic Morrow introduction trailer) Vic Morrow, who plays juvenile delinquent Artie West, introduces the trailer for Blackboard Jungle (1955).
In Cold Blood - (Original Trailer) Robert Blake and Scott Wilson play the men who murder a Kansas family In Cold Blood (1967), based on the Truman Capote book.
Last Time I Saw Paris, The - (Original Trailer) A writer recalls his turbulent marriage to an expatriate heiress in The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954), starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Battle Circus - (Original Trailer) See how Hollywood portrayed a M*A*S*H unit during the Korean War in Battle Circus (1953) starring Humphrey Bogart.
Crisis - (Original Trailer) Cary Grant takes a strong dramatic role as an American doctor forced to operate on a dictator in Crisis (1950).
Blackboard Jungle - (Original Trailer) An idealistic teacher (Glenn Ford) confronts the realities of juvenile delinquency in Blackboard Jungle (1955), directed by Richard Brooks.
Mystery Street - (Original Trailer) Criminal pathologists try to crack a case with nothing but the victim's bones as a lead in Mystery Street (1950).
Professionals, The - (Original Trailer) When a rancher's wife runs off with a bandit, he hires The Professionals (1966) starring Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - (Original Trailer) A dying plantation owner tries to help his alcoholic son solve his problems in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor.
Something of Value - (Original Trailer) Childhood friends end up on opposite sides of a bloody African uprising in Something of Value (1957), directed by Richard Brooks and starring Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier.
Last Hunt, The - (Original Trailer) Robert Taylor wants to kill every last buffalo in the West and Stewart Granger's out to stop him in The Last Hunt (1956).
Catered Affair, The - (Original Trailer) Ernest Borgnine is exploiting his Academy Award from Marty, 1955, in the fancy MGM trailer for his next Paddy Chayefsky-based drama The Catered Affair, 1956, with Bette Davis and Debbie Reynolds.

Family

Kate Brooks
Daughter
Born in 1961; mother, Jean Simmons.
Tracy Granger
Step-Daughter
Jean Simmons' daughter by Stewart Granager.

Companions

Harriett Levin
Wife
Married in 1945.
Jean Simmons
Wife
Actor. Born on January 31, 1929; previously married to Stewart Granger; married in 1960; directed her in "Elmer Gantry" and "The Happy Ending"; separated in 1977.

Bibliography

"The Producer"
Richard Brooks (1951)
"The Brick Foxhole"
Richard Brooks (1944)
"The Boiling Point"
Richard Brooks
"My Best Gal"
Richard Brooks

Notes

"Called 'God's angry man' by fellow writer Fay Kanin, Brooks frequently made films exposing social and moral conditions he deplored, alternating these with weighty literary properties and the occasional romance or comedy. Peter O'Toole called him 'the man who lived at the top of his voice.'" --Todd McCarthy in Brooks' obituary in Variety. March 16, 1992.

Brooks has defended his alteration of literary works for his films: "The novel and the screen are very different story-telling media. Short of putting the book in front of a camera and filming the text direct, page for page, any novel must necessarily undergo critical changes. Indeed, one hallmark of a good novel is the fact that it cannot be made into a good picture without changes. And it is equally true that a novel filmed scene for scene will not be a good movie. Nor would a good film make a good novel if it were literally and painstakingly transformed to the written word." --quoted in "Hollywood Directors 1941-76", edited by Richard Koszarski (1977)

"One of the most common complaints is that screenwriters--or directors, or producers--oversimplify everything, especially motivation and the delineation of character. . . . It is difficult for authors who have never written for or made, or studied, pictures, to realize how precious screen time is, and how swiftly things can be gotten over to an audience that is looking at moving pictures." --Richard Brooks quoted in "Hollywood Directors 1941-76", edited by Richard Koszarski (1977)

"The most important thing in the whole script is structure. You can go to the stage and shoot a scene with the right structure whether you've got the best cameraman or not. But you can have the best cameraman in the world and if you have no structure you've got shit." --Richard Brooks in 1990, quoted in his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter March 12, 1992.