(March 2, 1914 – December 8, 1990) was an American director
and actor who worked in both film and theater, and was noted for his socially conscious films.
Some of the movies he directed include The Long, Hot Summer
(1958), The Black Orchid
(1958), Paris Blues
(1961), Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man
(1963), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
(1967), The Great White Hope
(1972), The Front
(1976), Norma Rae
(1979), Cross Creek
(1983), Murphy's Romance
(1987), and Stanley & Iris
Early career and influences
Ritt originally attended and played football for Elon College
in North Carolina. The stark contrasts of the depression-era South, against his New York City upbringing, instilled in him a passion for expressing the struggles of inequality, which is apparent in the films he directed.
After leaving St. John's University
, Ritt found work with a theater group, and began acting in plays. His first performance was as Crown
in Porgy and Bess
. After his performance drew favorable reviews, Ritt concluded that he could "only be happy in the theater."
Ritt then went to work with the Roosevelt administration's New Deal Works Progress Administration
as a playwright for the Federal Theater Project
, a federal government-funded theater support program. With work hard to find and the Depression in full effect, many WPA theater performers, directors, and writers became heavily influenced by the radical left and Communism
, and Ritt was no exception. Years later, Ritt would state that he had never been a member of the Communist Party
, although he considered himself a leftist and found common ground with some Marxist principles
Ritt moved on from the WPA to the Theater of Arts, then to the Group Theatre
in New York City. There, he met Elia Kazan
, who cast Ritt as an understudy to his play Golden Boy
. Ritt continued his association with Kazan for well over a decade, later assisting - and sometimes filling in for - Kazan at The Actors Studio
He eventually becameone of the Studio's few non-performing life members.
World War II
During the Broadway run of the play, Ritt directed a production of Sidney Kingsley
's play Yellow Jack
, using actors from Winged Victory
and rehearsing between midnight and 3 am after Winged Victory
The play had a brief Broadway run and was performed again in Los Angeles
when the Winged Victory
troupe moved there to make the film version.
Television and the Blacklist
alleged that Ritt had helped Communist Party-affiliated locals of the New York-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
stage their annual show. Also cited was a show he had directed for Russian War Relief
at Madison Square Garden
. His associations with the Group Theater, founded on a Russian model, and the Federal Theater Project
(which Congress had stopped funding in 1939 because of what some anti-New Deal
congressmen claimed to be a left-wing political tone to some productions), were also known to HUAC. He was finally blacklisted
by the television industry when a Syracuse grocer charged him with donating money to Communist China in 1951. He supported himself for five years by teaching at the Actors Studio
Career in Hollywood
Unable to work in the television industry, Ritt returned to the theater for several years. By 1956, the Red Scare had decreased in intensity, and he turned to film directing. His first film as director was Edge of the City
(1957), an important film for Ritt and an opportunity to give voice to his experiences. Based on the story of a union dock worker who faces intimidation by a corrupt boss, the film incorporates many themes that were to influence Ritt over the years: corruption, racism, intimidation of the individual by the group, defense of the individual against government oppression, and most notably, the redeeming quality of mercy and the value of shielding others from evil, even at the cost of sacrificing one's own reputation, career, or life.
Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman
Ritt and Newman had a big hit with Hud
In 1976, Ritt made one of the first dramatic feature films about the blacklist, The Front
, starring Woody Allen
. The Front
satirizes the use of "fronts", men and women who (either as a personal favor or in exchange for payment) allowed their names to be listed as writers for scripts actually authored by blacklisted writers. The film was based on the experiences of, and written by, one of Ritt's closest friends, screenwriter Walter Bernstein
, who was blacklisted for eight years beginning in 1950.
Ritt and his wife Adele had a daughter, film producer Martina Wernerand, and a son, Michael.
- Nominated, Palme d'Or Cannes Film Festival - The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
- Nominated, Best Director Directors Guild of America - The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
- Nominated, Golden Lion Award Venice Film Festival - The Black Orchid (1958)
- Nominated, Best Director Golden Globe - Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962)
- Nominated, Best Director Academy Award - Hud (1963)
- Nominated, Best Director Directors Guild of America - Hud (1963)
- Nominated, Best Director Golden Globe - Hud (1963)
- Nominated, Best Director New York Film Critics Circle - Hud (1963)
- Winner, OCIC Award Venice Film Festival - Hud (1963)
- Nominated, Golden Lion Award Venice Film Festival - Hud (1963)
- Winner, Best British Film BAFTA The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
- Nominated, Best Director Directors Guild of America - Sounder (1972)
- Winner, Technical Grand Prize Cannes Film Festival - Norma Rae (1979)
- Nominated, Palme d'Or Cannes Film Festival - Norma Rae (1979)
- Nominated, Palme d'Or Cannes Film Festival - Cross Creek (1983)
- ^ a b c d e f g Flint, Peter B. (11 December 1990). "Martin Ritt, Director, Dead at 76; Maker of Socially Conscious Films". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- ^ Erens, Patricia (August 1988). The Jew in American Cinema. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-20493-6.
- ^ Conesr, John W. (October 8, 2012). Patterns of Bias in Hollywood Movies. Algora Publishing. p. 88. ISBN 9780875869582.
- ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947-1950". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 57. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. Whenever Kazan had to miss a class for professional reasons, his associate, Martin Ritt, would take over the session. Ritt was thoroughly familiar with Kazan's procedures and with the special talents and shortcomings of each member of the group.
- ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- ^ a b c Nixon, Rob. "The Outrage". TCM. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- ^ Miller, Gabriel (2000). The Films of Martin Ritt: Fanfare for the Common Man. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. p. 70. ISBN 9781617034961. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
- ^ Weiler, A.H. (8 October 1964). "Movie Review: The Outrage (1964)". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- ^ Miller, Gabriel (2000). The Films of Martin Ritt: Fanfare for the Common Man. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. p. 202. ISBN 9781617034961. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
- ^ Maslin, Janet (20 November 1987). "Movie Review: Nuts (1987)". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- ^ Baer, William (Spring 2003). "Hud: A Conversation with Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr". Michigan Quarterly Review. hdl:2027/spo.act2080.0042.201.
Last edited on 27 March 2021, at 22:57
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0
unless otherwise noted.