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Robert Aldrich

(1918 - 1983)

Robert Aldrich was a Jewish American director and producer.

Born in Cranston, Rhode Island, to a prominent East Coast family, Aldrich departed from family tradition to become one of Hollywood's most provocative filmmakers. After attending the University of Virginia, where he played football and studied economics, Aldrich began his film career as a production clerk for RKO at the onset of WWII. Aldrich quickly became an assistant director and spent the rest of the decade learning from esteemed directors such as Lewis Milestone, Joseph Losey, Abraham Polonsky, and Charlie Chaplin. Aldrich made his directorial feature film debut in 1953 with The Big Leaguer. The following year, he made his directorial breakthrough with the western Apache featuring Burt Lancaster as a pacifist Native American warrior in a film that presaged Aldrich's career-long exploration of violence and morality. Aldrich solidified his reputation as a director with Vera Cruz (1954), another western starring Lancaster, this time opposite Gary Cooper, as the two men vied for gold in Mexico. Aldrich's distinctive style continued to crystallize in two provocative film-noir features, Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and The Big Knife (1955), both of which earned him critical acclaim in Europe. After a series of disappointing films in the late 1950s, Aldrich rejuvenated his career with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), for which Bette Davis won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Aldrich's turbulent career was marked by two more highlights, The Dirty Dozen, the highest grossing film of 1967, and the popular prison film The Longest Yard (1974), starring Burt Reynolds. Aldrich served as president of the Director's Guild of America from 1975 to 1979, during which he successfully lobbied for increased creative authority for directors.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.