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Martin Ritt

IMDb

Date of Birth:
2 March 1914New York City, New York, USA

Date of Death:
8 December 1990Santa Monica, California, USA

Nickname:
Marty

Short Biography:
Martin Ritt, one of the best and most sensitive American filmmakers of all time, was a director, actor and playwright who worked in both film and theater. He was born in New York City. His films reflect, like almost none other, a profound and intimate humane vision of his characters.

He originally attended and played football for Elon College in North Carolina. The stark contrasts of the Depression-era South compared to his New York City upbringing instilled in him a passion for expressing the struggles of inequality, which is clearly present in the films he directed. After leaving St. John's University, he found work with a theater group, and began acting in plays. His first performance was as Crown in "Porgy and Bess". After his performance drew favorable reviews, Ritt concluded that he could "only be happy in the theater." He then went to work with the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration's New Deal agency the Works Progress Administration as a playwright for the Federal Theater Project, a government-funded theater support program. With work hard to find and the Depression in full effect, many WPA theater performers, directors and writers became heavily influenced by the radical left and Communism, and Ritt was no exception (years later he would state that he had never been a member of the Communist Party, although he considered himself a leftist and found common ground with some Marxist principles)

Ritt moved on from the WPA to the Theater of Arts, then to the Group Theater of New York City. It was at the Group Theater that he met Elia Kazan, then a director. Kazan cast Ritt as an understudy in his play "Golden Boy". Ritt's social consciousness and political views continued to mature during his time with the Group Theater, and would influence the social and political viewpoint that he would later express in his films (he would continue his association with Kazan for well over a decade, later assisting, and sometimes filling in for, his erstwhile mentor at The Actors Studio, eventually becoming one of the Studio's few non-performing life members). During World War II Ritt served with the U.S. Army Air Forces and appeared as an actor in the Air Force's Broadway play "Wiinged Victory" (also in the film version, Winged Victory (1944)). During the Broadway run of the play, Ritt directed a production of Sidney Kingsley's play "Yellow Jack", using actors from "Winged Victory" and rehearsing between midnight and 3 a.m. after "Winged Victory" performances. The play had a brief Broadway run and was performed again in Los Angeles when the "Winged Victory" troupe moved there to make the film version.

After working as a playwright with the Works Progress Administration, acting on stage and directing hundreds of plays, Ritt became a successful television director. In 1952 he was acting, directing and producing teleplays and television programs when he was caught up in what became known as the "Red Scare", which was an attempt by ultra-conservatives in Congress to "root out" what they saw as Commuist influence in films and on Broadway, championed by Wisconsin Repubican Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Although not directly named by the committee conducting the investigation--The House Committee on Un-American Activities, aka HUAC--Ritt was mentioned in a right-wing newsletter called "Counterattack", published by American Business Consultants, a group formed by three former FBI agents. "Counterattack" alleged that Ritt had helped Communist Party-affiliated locals of the New York-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union stage their annual show. He was finally blacklisted by the television industry when a Syracuse grocer charged him with donating money to Communist China in 1951. Unable to work in the television industry, Ritt returned to the theater for several years.

By 1956 the "Red Scare" had begun to fade away, and Ritt turned to film directing. His first film as a director was Edge of the City (1957), an important film for Ritt and an opportunity to give voice to his experiences. Based on the story of a union dock worker who faced intimidation by a corrupt boss, the film is a virtual laundry list of themes influencing Ritt over the years: corruption, racism, intimidation of the individual by the group, defense of the individual against government oppression and, most notable, the redeeming quality of mercy and the value of shielding others from evil, including sacrificing one's own reputation, career and even life if necessary. Ritt went on to direct 25 more films, including such classics as The Long, Hot Summer (1958), Hud (1963), The Great White Hope (1970), Norma Rae (1979) and Murphy's Romance (1985).

Stanley & Iris (1990)

# 04808 IMDb

Stanley & Iris (1990)

TaglineSome people need love spelled out for them.

By Martin Ritt

Drama, Romance (1h 44min)

USA USA

Rated 6.3 after 5,956 votes on 23-Dec-17.

An illiterate cook (Robert De Niro) at a company cafeteria tries for the attention of a newly widowed woman (Jane Fonda). As they get to know one another, she discovers his inability to read. When he is fired, she takes on trying to teach him to read in her kitchen each night.

Norma Rae (1979)

# 03689 IMDb

Norma Rae (1979)

TaglineThe story of a woman with the courage to risk everything for what she believes is right.

By Martin Ritt

Drama (1h 50min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.4 after 8,730 votes on 17-May-18.

Won 2 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 6 nominations

Norma Rae is a lively, but dependable, wife and mother in an Alabama mill town. Like her father, her mother and most of her friends, she works at the Henley mill, spinning and weaving cloth as the days go by without much apparent purpose. Her "nothing special" life changes when she and her coworkers meet Reuben, a dedicated, smart-mouthed labor organizer down from New York to teach the Henley (...)

The Front (1976)

# 00965 IMDb

The Front (1976)

TaglineAmerica's Most Unlikely Hero.

By Martin Ritt

Comedy, Drama (1h 35min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.4 after 6,667 votes on 18-Feb-17.

Nominated for Oscar. Another 3 nominations

In the early 1950s Howard Prince, who works in a restaurant, helps out a black-listed writer friend by selling a TV station a script under his own name. The money is useful in paying off gambling debts, so he takes on three more such clients. Howard is politically pretty innocent, but involvement with Florence - who quits TV in disgust over things - and friendship with the show's ex-star - now (...)

Der Richter und sein Henker (1975)

# 08672 IMDb

Der Richter und sein Henker (1975)

(End of the Game)

Tagline"I could murder her in front of your eyes and you couldn't prove it", said the master criminal to the master detective. And so the game began...

By Maximilian Schell

Drama, Mystery, Crime, Thriller (1h 46min)

West Germany West Germany, Italy Italy

Rated 6.1 after 759 votes on 02-Jun-18.

3 wins

While investigating a high-profile murder case, a savvy but unorthodox veteran police inspector has to cope with a bad conscience, bad health, an overzealous partner, a timid superior and interference from political interests. This is an existential whodunit, but a good one, and like any good whodunit, ends with a very surprising conclusion, which will be spoiled for you if you read much of (...)

Conrack (1974)

# 12102 IMDb

Conrack (1974)

TaglineOne beautiful man. His story is true.

By Martin Ritt

Drama (1h 46min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.3 after 1,339 votes on 08-May-17.

1 win & 1 nomination

White Pat Conroy was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina. In March, 1969 under the Beaufort School District, he starts a job teaching at a small poor school located on Daufuskie Island, an island in a South Carolina river delta, the island accessible only by boat. The island is inhabited exclusively by blacks. He quickly learns that his students, who have never left the island, lack not (...)

Pete 'n' Tillie (1972)

# 14060 IMDb PG 

Pete 'n' Tillie (1972)

TaglineHoneymoon's over... It's time to get married.

By Martin Ritt

Comedy, Drama, Romance (1h 40min)

USA USA

Rated 6.2 after 645 votes on 24-Jan-18.

Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 4 nominations

Unassuming and single thirty-three year old Tillie Shlain is at that phase of her life of being known as a soon to be spinster if she doesn't marry soon. She isn't looking forward to meeting the latest in a long string of blind dates, his name being Pete Seltzer. Pete and Tillie are not a match made in heaven, he using wisecracking and constant flirtations with women to mask his own insecurities (...)

The Great White Hope (1970)

# 08755 IMDb

The Great White Hope (1970)

TaglineHe could beat any white man in the world. He just couldn't beat all of them.

By Martin Ritt

Biography, Drama, Romance, Sport (1h 43min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.0 after 1,960 votes on 13-Nov-17.

Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations

Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) as a boxer, dealing with the racism and hatred of early-20th century white America. He is not only the first black heavyweight contender; he is also in love with a white woman. Jefferson must not only deal with the hatred of whites, he must also deal with the ostracism of some members of the black community who feel he has sold out.

The Brotherhood (1968)

# 12151 IMDb

The Brotherhood (1968)

TaglineHonor. Loyalty. Betrayal.

By Martin Ritt

Crime, Drama (1h 36min)

USA USA

Rated 6.0 after 647 votes on 14-May-18.

1 nomination

The son of a powerful Mafia don comes home from his army service in Vietnam and wants to lead his own life, but family tradition, intrigues and powerplays involving his older brother dictate otherwise, and he finds himself being slowly drawn back into that world.

Hombre (1967)

# 02275 IMDb

Hombre (1967)

TaglineHombre means MAN... Paul Newman is HOMBRE!

By Martin Ritt

Action, Western (1h 51min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.4 after 8,436 votes on 02-Aug-16.

3 nominations

In this film more is said with just one look than in 100 cute one-liners. An Indian policeman travels by stagecoach and encounters more than his share of trouble. Filled with hard looks, calmly delivered threats and lots of gun play. There are also women involved.

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965)

# 01400 IMDb

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965)

TaglineTHE MAN WHO KNOWS ALL THE DIRT! ...SHEER AND NAKED!

By Martin Ritt

Drama, Thriller (1h 52min)

UK UK

Fine! Rated 7.7 after 11,381 votes on 04-May-17.

Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 8 wins & 3 nominations

Alec Leamas, a British spy is sent to East Germany supposedly to defect, but in fact to sow disinformation. As more plot turns appear, Leamas becomes more convinced that his own people see him as just a cog. His struggle back from dehumanization becomes the final focus of the story.

Hud (1963)

# 02873 IMDb

Hud (1963)

TaglineThe man with the barbed wire soul!

By Martin Ritt

Drama (1h 52min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.9 after 16,830 votes on 15-Jul-18.

Won 3 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 14 nominations

Paul Newman is Hud Bannon, a ruthless young man who tarnishes everything and everyone he touches. Hud represents the perfect embodiment of alienated youth, out for kicks with no regard for the consequences. There is bitter conflict between the callous Hud and his stern and highly principled father, Homer (Melvyn Douglas). Hud's nephew Lon (Brandon De Wilde) admires Hud's cheating ways, though he (...)

Paris Blues (1961)

# 05622 IMDb

Paris Blues (1961)

TaglineA Love So Spectacular, So Personally Exciting, You Feel It Happening To You!

By Martin Ritt

Drama, Music (1h 38min)

USA USA

Rated 6.7 after 1,735 votes on 29-Jun-16.

Nominated for Oscar. Another 1 nomination

Ram Bowen and Eddie Cook, are a couple of American Jazz musicians living in Paris. They live lives full of music staying up all night playing in a jazz club and sleeping all day. Their carefree lifestyles are turned upside down with the arrival of two beautiful American tourist and the men finally find themselves torn between the music and the women.

The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

# 02745 IMDb

The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

TaglineAdapted from the Sensational Novel by William Faulkner

By Martin Ritt

Drama (1h 55min)

USA USA

Fine! Rated 7.5 after 8,147 votes on 06-Oct-17.

1 win & 3 nominations

Ben Quick arrives in Frenchman's Bend, MS after being kicked out of another town for allegedly burning a barn for revenge. Will Varner owns just about everything in Frenchman's Bend and he hires Ben to work in his store. Will thinks his own son, Jody, who manages the store, lacks ambition and despairs of him getting his wife, Eula, pregnant. Will thinks his daughter, Clara, a schoolteacher, will (...)

No Down Payment (1957)

# 14690 IMDb Approved 

No Down Payment (1957)

TaglineJohn McPartland's Explosive Novel That Tell-Tales on Young Married America!

By Martin Ritt

Drama (1h 45min)

USA USA

Rated 7.2 after 698 votes on 08-Jul-18.

1 win & 2 nominations

The marital difficulties of four couples living in a southern California housing development become intertwined. Among the unhappy couples are ne'er-do-well Jerry Flagg and his long-suffering wife Isabelle, flirtatious Leola Boone and her sadistic husband Troy, hard working Herman Kreitzer and his understanding wife Betty, and newlyweds Jean and David Martin.

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