Sydney Pollack: The Passing of a Legend

Even if you’re not mad about movies, you’d probably still have seen some of Sydney Pollack’s works, either with him as a director, an actor, or a producer. 

A good movie is measured not in length, but in depth, and a career, in breadth.  But even if you’d like to use length to evaluate, Pollack’s five decades of contribution to the movie industry can certainly measure up.   

Consider these titles:

  • They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969, director) 
  • The Way We Were (1973, director)
  • Three Days of the Condor (1975, director)
  • Absence of Malice (1981, director, producer)
  • The Firm (1993, director, producer)
  • Sabrina (1995, director, producer)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995, producer)
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999, executive producer)
  • Up At The Villa (2000, executive producer)
  • The Quiet American (2002, executive producer)
  • Cold Mountain (2003, producer)
  • The Interpreter (2005, actor, director, executive producer)
  • Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005, director)
  • Michael Clayton (2007, actor, producer)
  • Made of Honor (2008, actor)

Not to mention the numerous TV appearances, dating back to “Playhouse 90” (1959), “The Twilight Zone” (1960), “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1960), to “Will & Grace” and “The Sopranos”.

And with his directing, he had sent Jane Fonda, Susannah York, Paul Newman, Jessica Lange, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Barbra Streisand to the Oscars.  

Yes, you might have noticed…I’ve left out two movies, and they’re classics:  Tootsie (1982) and Out of Africa (1985).  No…how can I have forgotten them? I’m just saving my favorites for last.  Pollack acted in and directed Tootsie.  He demonstrated that he was an incisive social critic who could tactfully embed his provocative commentary in an enjoyable comedy.

And Out of Africa…the movie that brought Pollack his Oscar win as Best Director, and won the Best Picture of 1985… I just want to say, it represents the epitome of a great love story, one that encompasses depth of character, poignancy, meaning and significance.  And the images, the music and cinematography…just astounding.  Why do we only have ‘Chick Flicks’ nowadays?  What happened to the art and depth of storytelling?

Pollack died of cancer in Los Angelas on May 26.  He was 73.  Here are some links covering the passing of Sydney Pollack:

BBC News with video clip

SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle

Yahoo News with ABC news clip

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

8 thoughts on “Sydney Pollack: The Passing of a Legend”

  1. A very nice tribute to a man who deeply touched many, many people – who couldn’t even tell you his name.

    I was especially taken with your question: “What happened to the art and depth of storytelling?” I know the answer is related to the nature of our culture, but I haven’t moved beyond that initial reaction. When I do, you can be sure it will be posted over at my little cyber-cottage!

    As for love stories, I offer this. An African friend, a fellow from Sierra Leone, once asked me if I liked Africa. I had been there about two years, and didn’t know what to say – I was speechless. He laughed and said, “That’s good. You know Africa, you love her or you hate her. Anyone who “likes” Africa knows nothing of her.”


  2. The legendary producer, director, actor – Sydney Pollack will be missed.

    My condolences to his family & the movie industry.


  3. A nice tribute, Arti. I have always enjoyed Out of Africa, and am lucky enough to go to the screening of Sketches of Frank Gehry here in HK. Sydney Pollack also made a recurring guest starring role in NBC’s comedy series “Will & Grace”, playing father of the title character Will, played by Eric McCormack. (Oh, did I also mention he was in Eyes Wide Shut too?)


  4. I am amazed that ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ hasn’t become a rerun classic on movie channels. I saw the film once, and the impression this powerful snapshot of the depression left on my young brain was indelible. I always enjoyed seeing Sidney in a cameo in his own films, especially as the typical brash NY city agent in Tootsie. He will be missed. Thanks, Arti, for this wonderful reminiscence about an important director.


  5. I was just listening to Stephen Bishop’s “It Might Be You” from “Tootsie” and I thought of your post. Thank you for the movie list–Pollock’s accomplishments are indeed breathtaking.


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