Oscar-winning director and occasional actor Sydney Pollack died of stomach cancer on Monday at the age of 73. The New York Times has a fairly astute and comprehensive obituary that details his achievements behind the camera, which include The Way We Were, Absence of Malice, Tootsie, and The Firm. He was nominated for three directing Oscars, winning for Out of Africa, and directed a dozen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances.

To me, it seems like Pollack never quite got his due. Despite the majority of his films being above-average in quality (and at least one, Tootsie, being a genuine classic), he was rarely mentioned in the same breath as the other 1970s and '80s powerhouse filmmakers. Maybe he wasn't prolific enough: In a 40-year theatrical career he made just 21 films, and only a few were major box-office blockbusters.

People liked him, though. I know I did. His frequent supporting roles (sometimes in his own films) gave moviegoers a face to go with the name, and he always came across as a friendly, knowledgeable man, the kind of guy you could chat with. (It's a pity his final onscreen performance was in the wretched Made of Honor. Then again, Orson Welles' last film was the 1985 Transformers movie, so Pollack's in good company.) Pollack came across as a real movie buff, too. I loved seeing his introductions to great films on Turner Classic Movies' "The Essentials" series -- it was like having a smart movie fan sit and watch the flick with me. I also love that he once sued a Danish television station for showing a pan-and-scan version of his film Three Days of the Condor. He recently did one of those "turn off your cell phone" PSAs that play at some movie theaters, demonstrating 1) that he was a funny guy, and 2) that he loved movies.

He was no slouch as a producer, either. His name appears on Michael Clayton, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Sense and Sensibility, among many others.

Pollack and his wife, Claire, were married in 1958 and had three children. Pollack was 73, he'd had a fine career, and he died surrounded by loved ones. If you have to go, that's the way to go. But it's sad that he had to go.

What are your memories of Sydney Pollack as a director, actor, or film enthusiast? Feel free to share.
categories Cinematical