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Obit: Sydney Pollack Dies; One of Hollywood Greats

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 27, 2008 at 5:11AM

Director Sydney Pollack died in Los Angeles Monday after a long bout with cancer. He was 73.

Artpollack2giDirector Sydney Pollack died in Los Angeles Monday after a long bout with cancer. He was 73.

Pollack's cancer was inoperable because it riddled his entire body and the original site was never found.

Trained as an actor, Pollack enjoyed an unusually long and prolific career as a producer and director distinguished by his uncanny knack for delivering high quality, commercial films in just about any genre, often with notoriously demanding stars, from Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were) to Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie). He also made several films with Robert Redford (The Electric Horseman) and Harrison Ford (Sabrina). Always hard on himself, Pollack never assumed that he had scored a hit; he was in despair in the editing room before audiences fell in love with his Oscar-winning Out of Africa. And the same was true of the challengingly difficult Tootsie, in which he played one of many memorable supporting roles. Pollack also enjoyed acting in other directors' films, such as Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, and most recently, Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton.

Crafting quality studio entertainment is a lot harder than it looks: at the end of his long career, Pollack boasts a number of films likely to be remembered as classics. And he is respected, admired and personally revered as one of the more gifted, capable and generous talents to come through Hollywood. He certainly has a place in my own pantheon of all-time Hollywood greats.

Pollack told The New York Times in 1982:

"Stars are like thoroughbreds," he said. "Yes, it's a little more dangerous with them. They are more temperamental. You have to be careful because you can be thrown. But when they do what they do best -- whatever it is that's made them a star -- it's really exciting."

..."if you have a career like mine, which is so identified with Hollywood, with big studios and stars, you wonder if maybe you shouldn't go off and do what the world thinks of as more personal films with lesser-known people. But I think I've fooled everybody. I've made personal films all along. I just made them in another form."

Pollack Classics:

The Way We Were


Out of Africa

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Three Days of the Condor

The Yakuza

UPDATE: Kris Tapley, interning at The Times of London, assembles Pollack obits.

This article is related to: Obit

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.