Well, the first obituary courtesy of the weasels at Charter.net made its appearance on my homepage this morning. Actor-director-producer Sydney Pollack, who made a name for himself in cinema with films like The Way We Were (1973), Tootsie (1982), Out of Africa (1985; for which he won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director) and The Firm (1993), has died from cancer. He was 73 years old.
Pollack rightly received accolades for the films he directed throughout his career, though to be honest I can’t say I was a huge fan of his work. Before his theatrical film debut with The Slender Thread in 1965, Pollack was best known for acting (The Twilight Zone, Have Gun—Will Travel) and directing (The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Ben Casey) in television. (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.) Several of Pollack’s films, however, do snap to attention as among my favorites: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), The Yakuza (1974) and Absence of Malice (1981). (Another one of my favorites, Three Days of the Condor , will be shown on TCM at 1:30am early Wednesday morning, so I’ve made plans to tape it and look at it later.)
Glancing at a list of his credits on the IMDb, I was intrigued to learn that Pollack had a finger in the movie pie known as The Swimmer (1968), which I retrieved from the newly-relocated (but still dusty) Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives and watched last week. Swimmer’s credited director, Frank Perry, didn’t finish the film due to creative conflicts and so Pollack was brought in to finish the job…supervising the scenes between stars Burt Lancaster and Janice Rule.
In later years, Pollack became more prominent in the public eye with a recurring role on TV sitcom Will & Grace (as Will’s dad) and cherce acting assignments in films like Husbands and Wives (1992), Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and Changing Lanes (2002). (He also did a brief stint as the host of “The Essentials,” a showcase for classic movies on—where else?—TCM.)
R.I.P., Sydney. You will be missed.