Michael Ritchie (film director)
|Born||Michael Brunswick Ritchie
November 28, 1938
|Died||April 16, 2001
New York City, New York
Michael Brunswick Ritchie (November 28, 1938 - April 16, 2001) was an American film director of distinguished and often experimental films like The Candidate and Downhill Racer, who also excelled at comedy. He scored notable successes directing Robert Redford's formative work, and Chevy Chase's Fletch comedies.
Ritchie was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the son of Patricia (née Graney) and Benbow Ferguson Ritchie. His family later moved to Berkeley, California, where his father was a professor of experimental psychology at the University of California at Berkeley1 and his mother was the art and music librarian for the city.
He attended Berkeley High School before becoming interested in film, and was accepted at Harvard University following high school. He told Redford's biographer, author Michael Feeney Callan, that academic interest in film culture was the basis and drive for his career.
Ritchie attracted attention in his senior year at Harvard in 1960 by directing the original production of the Arthur Kopit play, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His work on Kopit's play led to a job offer from Robert Saudek, the producer of the Omnibus television series. Ritchie also directed episodes of Profiles in Courage and such TV series as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Dr. Kildare and Felony Squad prior to making his Hollywood feature-film debut in 1969 with Downhill Racer.
As a director, Ritchie's output was highly varied and alternately ironic and comedic. In his sports films like Downhill Racer, Semi-Tough, Wildcats, and The Bad News Bears he demonstrated a kinetic style, but his wry wit was evident in the Fletch films, starring Chevy Chase.
Though regarded as a significant auteur, Michael Ritchie did not achieve the high profile celebrity of more media-friendly contemporaries like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. However, his films were recognized as "unpretentious, closely observed, finely textured works...there comes a point when, looking back, one sees that their consistency itself - consistent excellence - is telling us something: something about the way that cinema itself is able to move out and look around."2
In 1994, Ritchie purchased the hacienda-style house at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, in the Brentwood district of Los Angeles, where Marilyn Monroe died in 1962. He bought the property for $995,000 and it became his Los Angeles family base.
In 1994, Ritchie moved to Manhattan with his wife, Jimmie B. Ritchie, and daughters, Lillian (b. 1986) and Miriam (b. 1988). His additional children include a son, Steven (b. 1973); daughters Lauren (b. 1966) and Jessica (b. 1973), and two stepchildren, Nelly Bly and Billy Bly.
Ritchie died on April 16, 2001 in New York at the age 62 from complications related to prostate cancer.
- Downhill Racer (1969)
- The Candidate (1972)
- Prime Cut (1972)
- Smile (1975)
- The Bad News Bears (1976)
- Semi-Tough (1977)
- An Almost Perfect Affair (1979)
- The Island (1980)
- Divine Madness! (1980)
- Student Bodies (1981)
- The Survivors (1983)
- Fletch (1985)
- Wildcats (1986)
- The Golden Child (1986)
- The Couch Trip (1988)
- Fletch Lives (1989)
- Diggstown (1992)
- The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993) (TV movie)
- Cops and Robbersons (1994)
- The Scout (1994)
- The Fantasticks (1995)
- Comfort, Texas (1997) (TV movie)
- A Simple Wish (1997)
- Michael Ritchie Biography (1938-2001)
- http://www.amazon.com/American-Directors-Jean-Pierre-Coursodon/dp/007013264X; American Directors Volume II; by Jean-Pierre Coursodon; McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, New York, 1983
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