After briefly attending Utah State University, Hal Ashby worked in a minor capacity at the Universal script department. Moving to Republic Studios in 1953, he became an assistant film editor, graduating to full editor in 1963. Four years later, Ashby won the Best Editing Oscar for his work on In the Heat of the Night. He made his directorial debut with 1970's The Landlord, then became the fair-haired boy of the cult-movie circuit with his film Harold and Maude (1971), the bittersweet saga of the offbeat relationship between a death-obsessed young man and a freewheeling elderly woman. Ashby's subsequent track record as a director was remarkable, including such now-classic efforts as The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Bound for Glory (1976), Coming Home (1978), and Being There (1979). His strength lay in a facile adaptability to the widely divergent talents of actors ranging from Jon Voight to Jack Nicholson. Ashby's winning streak was broken by the sloppily self-indulgent Second-Hand Hearts (1981), after which he wielded the megaphone on such indifferent efforts as The Slugger's Wife (1984) and Eight Million Ways to Die (1985). He died of cancer in 1988.