I was saddened to hear of the passing of Sydney Pollack, who died Monday of cancer at the age of 73. Pollack was often dismissed as an impersonal, middlebrow filmmaker, but his credits speak otherwise. More often than not, the mans nose for sniffing out quality projects was on-target.
As a director, Pollack helmed 20 pictures, and while a few were duds (such as Havana and Random Hearts), his hit-to-miss ratio was phenomenal. Three Days of the Condor (1975), starring his frequent leading man Robert Redford, ranks as one of the best thrillers of the 1970s, Tootsie (1982) is an acknowledged comedy classic, and Out of Africa (1985) remains a lush, intelligent romance that earned Pollack Oscars for Best Director and (as producer) Best Picture. Other gems include They Shoot Horses, Dont They? (1969), Absence of Malice (1981) and The Firm (1993), the last-named easily the best screen adaptation of a John Grisham novel.
As producer or executive producer, his credits include Presumed Innocent (1990), Sense and Sensibility (1995) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).
And as a character actor, he was superb, ably playing both comedy and drama. He was amusing as Dustin Hoffmans agent in Tootsie, outright hilarious as a doctor in Death Becomes Her (1992), deserving of an Oscar nomination as a real SOB opposite Judy Davis (who did earn a nod) in Woody Allens Husbands and Wives (1992), and solidly somber opposite Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut (1999; pictured) and George Clooney in last years Michael Clayton. Sadly, his final screen appearance was in a subpar film as Patrick Dempseys dad in the current Made of Honor though as was often the case, he again stole the show.