Herbert Ross

Active - 1931 - 2004  |   Born - May 13, 1927   |   Died - Jan 1, 2001   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Drama, Comedy Drama, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American director/choreographer Herbert Ross divided his time between Broadway and the American Ballet Theatre in the 1950s and 1960s. Ross also choreographed numerous live television programs, and handled the dance sequences of such films as Carmen Jones (1954), Inside Daisy Clover (1963) and Dr. Doollittle (1967). His first screen directorial job was Goodbye Mr. Chips, an overblown 1969 remake of a well-regarded 1939 MGM feature. Ross' subsequent cinema reputation rested on his ability to transfer popular stage plays to the screen, as witness The Owl and The Pussycat (1970), The Sunshine Boys (1975) and California Suite (1978). While he was expert in cinematizing the plays of Neil Simon, Ross was critcally lambasted for his conformist approach to Woody Allen's Play it Again Sam (1972), though this film was one of Allen's biggest moneymakers. Ross also directed a brace of Neil Simon screenplays, The Goodbye Girl (1977) (which won an Oscar for star Richard Dreyfuss) and Max Dugan Returns (1982). Considered by some detractors to be merely a conduit for the works of more talented writers, Ross countered his critics with such remarkable personal-expression pieces as The Turning Point (1978), a story of the ballet world which became an unexpected box-office smash, and Pennies From Heaven (1981), a courageous if not wholly successful juxtaposition of wish-dream fantasy and tragic reality. Ross has worked with everyone from Raquel Welch to Barbra Streisand, so he is unimpressed by the excesses of "star mystique." He was roundly criticized by the costars of Steel Magnolias (1989) for his rough treatment of then-supporting actress Julia Roberts, but the fact is that Roberts gave a far better performance for Ross than she would for many of her pre-approved directors once she achieved superstardom. In private life, Ross has had two high-profile marriages -- his first wife was ballet dancer Nora Kaye, who produced many of her husband's films until her death in 1987 and his second wife was Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jackie Kennedy.

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