Monday, March 19, 2007

Obituary: Stuart Rosenberg

Stuart Rosenberg, Director of TV and Films, Dies at 79


The New York Times
Published: March 19, 2007

Stuart Rosenberg, a hard-working director of series television and theatrical films who captured the simmering anti-authoritarianism of the late 1960s in the widely popular Paul Newman prison drama “Cool Hand Luke,” died on Thursday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 79.

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Mr. Rosenberg studied Irish literature at New York University, where he met his future wife, Margot Pohoryles. While trying to make ends meet as a graduate student and part-time teacher, he found a job as an apprentice film editor in the new television industry, which was rapidly developing in Manhattan in the early 1950s.

Mr. Rosenberg became a full-fledged editor and then, in 1957, a director on the television series “Decoy,” starring Beverly Garland as a New York City policewoman. In 1958 and 1959 he directed 15 episodes of the crime show “Naked City” before landing his first job on a Hollywood film, “Murder, Inc.” But a 1960 strike by the actors’ and screenwriters’ unions forced him to leave the film, and he was replaced by its producer, Burt Balaban. Mr. Rosenberg returned to television, directing episodes of “The Untouchables,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Twilight Zone” and other shows.

Although he directed “Question 7,” a Lutheran-financed film about religious persecution in East Germany, he didn’t make a major studio picture until 1967. He discovered Donn Pearce’s novel “Cool Hand Luke” in a Hollywood Boulevard bookstore and took it to Jack Lemmon’s production company, Jalem.

Paul Newman projected a grinning indomitability as the instinctive and irrepressible rebel Lucas Jackson, an inmate of a Southern prison who locks horns with a sadistic overseer played by Strother Martin. Mr. Martin pronounced the film’s most famous line: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

After “Cool Hand Luke,” Mr. Rosenberg directed Mr. Lemmon and the French actress Catherine Deneuve, making her American debut, in “The April Fools.” He worked with Mr. Newman again on “WUSA” (1970), “Pocket Money” (1972) and “The Drowning Pool” (1975).

Two of Mr. Rosenberg’s best films were urban crime stories characterized by a sharp use of locations and visceral acting: “The Laughing Policeman” (1973) and “The Pope of Greenwich Village” (1984). In 1980 he replaced Bob Rafelson on another prison picture, “Brubaker,” with Robert Redford as a reform-minded warden. His most financially successful film was probably “The Amityville Horror” (1979), which has inspired seven sequels to date.

Mr. Rosenberg made his last theatrical film, “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” for an independent studio, the Samuel Goldwyn Company, in 1991. He later taught directing at the American Film Institute, where his students included the filmmakers Darren Aronofsky, Todd Field, Scott Silver and Mark Waters.

He is survived by his wife, of Beverly Hills; his son, a first assistant director whose credits include four of his father’s films, and daughter-in-law, Vivianne Rosenberg, of Burbank, Calif.; and four grandchildren.

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