Martin Ritt
Overview
Martin Ritt was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 director, actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

, and playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 who worked in both film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 and theater. He was born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

.
Ritt originally attended and played football for Elon College in North Carolina. The stark contrasts of the depression-era South, against his New York City upbringing, instilled in him a passion for expressing the struggles of inequality, which is apparent in the films he directed.
Encyclopedia
Martin Ritt was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 director, actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

, and playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 who worked in both film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 and theater. He was born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

.

Early career and influences

Ritt originally attended and played football for Elon College in North Carolina. The stark contrasts of the depression-era South, against his New York City upbringing, instilled in him a passion for expressing the struggles of inequality, which is apparent in the films he directed. After leaving St. John's University
St. John's University (New York City)
St. John's University is a private, Roman Catholic, coeducational university located in New York City, United States. Founded by the Congregation of the Mission in 1870, the school was originally located in the borough of Brooklyn in the neighborhood of Bedford–Stuyvesant...

, Ritt found work with a theater group, and began acting in plays. His first performance was as Crown in Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess is an opera, first performed in 1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It was based on DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy and subsequent play of the same title, which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward...

. After his performance drew favorable reviews, Ritt concluded that he could "only be happy in the theater." Ritt then went to work with the Roosevelt administration's New Deal Works Progress Administration
Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects...

 as a playwright for the Federal Theater Project, a federal 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, Ritt 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
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan was an American director and actor, described by the New York Times as "one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history". Born in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, to Greek parents originally from Kayseri in Anatolia, the family emigrated...

. Kazan cast Ritt as an understudy to his play Golden Boy
Golden Boy
Golden Boy is a drama by Clifford Odets. The play was initially produced on Broadway by The Group Theatre in 1937. Odets' biggest hit was made into a 1939 film of the same name, starring William Holden in his breakthrough role, and also served as the basis for a 1964 musical.-Plot:It focuses on Joe...

. 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 Ritt would later express in his films.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Ritt served with the U.S. Army Air Forces and appeared as an actor in the Air Forces' Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 play and film Winged Victory
Winged Victory (play)
Winged Victory is a play and, later, a film by Moss Hart, originally created and produced by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II as a morale booster and as a fundraiser for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. Upon recommendation of Lt. Col. Dudley S. Dean, who had been approached with the...

. During the Broadway run of the play, Ritt directed a production of Sidney Kingsley's
Sidney Kingsley
Sidney Kingsley was an American dramatist. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Men in White in 1934.- Biography :...

 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
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 when the Winged Victory troupe moved there to make the film version.

Television and the Blacklist

After working as a playwright with the Works Progress Administration
Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects...

, acting on stage, and directing hundreds of plays, Ritt became a successful television director.

In 1952, Ritt was acting, directing, and producing teleplays and television programs when he was caught up by the Red Scare and investigations of communist influence in Hollywood and the movie industry. Although not directly named by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Ritt was mentioned in an anti-communist 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. Also cited was a show he had directed for Russian War Relief
Russian War Relief
Russian War Relief was an alleged Communist front group, circa 1944. According to a 1943 FBI report, the group was “infiltrated with known Communists, Communist leaders, fellow travelers, and front organizations.” The chairman of Russian War Relief was Edward C...

 at Madison Square Garden. His associations with the Group Theater, founded on a Russian model, and the Federal Theater Project (which Congress had stopped funding in 1939 because of what some anti-New Deal congressmen claimed to be a left-wing political tone to some productions), were also known to HUAC. He was finally blacklist
Blacklist
A blacklist is a list or register of entities who, for one reason or another, are being denied a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition. As a verb, to blacklist can mean to deny someone work in a particular field, or to ostracize a person from a certain social circle...

ed by the television industry when a Syracuse grocer charged him with donating money to Communist China in 1951.

Career in Hollywood

Unable to work in the television industry, Ritt returned to the theater for several years. By 1956, the Red Scare had decreased in intensity, and he turned to film directing. His first film as director was Edge of the City
Edge of the City
Edge of the City is a 1957 drama film directed by Martin Ritt, starring John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier. It was Ritt's debut film as a director...

, an important film for Ritt and an opportunity to give voice to his experiences. Based on the story of a union dock worker who faces 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.

Ritt's 1964 film The Outrage
The Outrage
The Outrage is a remake of the 1950 Japanese film Rashomon, reformulated as a Western. Like the original Akira Kurosawa film, four people give contradictory accounts of a rape and murder. Kurosawa is credited with the screenplay. It was directed by Martin Ritt and is based on stories by Ryūnosuke...

, is an American retelling of the Kurosawa film Rashomon
Rashomon (film)
The bandit's storyTajōmaru, a notorious brigand , claims that he tricked the samurai to step off the mountain trail with him and look at a cache of ancient swords he discovered. In the grove he tied the samurai to a tree, then brought the woman there. She initially tried to defend herself with a...

, and stars Laurence Harvey
Laurence Harvey
Laurence Harvey was a Lithuanian-born actor who achieved fame in British and American films.- Early life :Harvey maintained throughout his life that his birth name was Laruschka Mischa Skikne. However, his legal name was Zvi Mosheh Skikne. He was the youngest of three boys born to Ber "Boris" and...

, Paul Newman
Paul Newman
Paul Leonard Newman was an American actor, film director, entrepreneur, humanitarian, professional racing driver and auto racing enthusiast...

, Claire Bloom
Claire Bloom
Claire Bloom is an English film and stage actress.-Early life:Bloom was born in the North London suburb of Finchley, the daughter of Elizabeth and Edward Max Blume, who worked in sales...

, Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson was a Romanian-born American actor. A popular star during Hollywood's Golden Age, he is best remembered for his roles as gangsters, such as Rico in his star-making film Little Caesar and as Rocco in Key Largo...

, Howard Da Silva
Howard Da Silva
Howard Da Silva was an American actor.-Early life:He was born Howard Silverblatt in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Benjamin and Bertha Silverblatt. His parents were both Yiddish speaking Jews born in Russia. He had a job as a steelworker before beginning his acting career on the stage...

, and William Shatner
William Shatner
William Alan Shatner is a Canadian actor, musician, recording artist, and author. He gained worldwide fame and became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James T...

. Ritt and Newman worked together on four other movies, Paris Blues
Paris Blues
Paris Blues is an American feature film filmed on location in Paris, starring Sidney Poitier as expatriate jazz musician Eddie Cook, and Paul Newman as trombone-playing Ram Bowen. The two men romance two vacationing American tourists, Connie Lampson and Lillian Corning respectively...

, The Long, Hot Summer
The Long, Hot Summer
The Long, Hot Summer is a 1958 film directed by Martin Ritt, starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury and Orson Welles...

, Hud
Hud (film)
Hud is a 1963 western film whose title character is an embittered and selfish modern-day cowboy. With screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., based on Larry McMurtry's 1961 novel Horseman, Pass By, it was directed by Martin Ritt and stars Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal and...

and Hombre
Hombre (film)
Hombre is a 1967 revisionist western film directed by Martin Ritt, based on the novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard. It stars Paul Newman, Richard Boone, Martin Balsam, Diane Cilento and Fredric March....

. In the 1970s, Ritt won acclaim for movies like The Great White Hope
The Great White Hope
The Great White Hope is a 1967 play written by Howard Sackler, later adapted in 1970 for a film of the same name. The play was first produced by Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and debuted on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on October 3, 1968 for a run of 546 performances, directed by Edwin Sherin...

(earning Oscar nominations for James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones is an American actor. He is well-known for his distinctive bass voice and for his portrayal of characters of substance, gravitas and leadership...

 and Jane Alexander
Jane Alexander
Jane Alexander is an American actress, author, and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Although perhaps best known for playing the female lead in The Great White Hope on both stage and screen, Alexander has played a wide array of roles in both theater and film and has committed...

), Sounder, Conrack
Conrack
Conrack can refer to:* Conrack, the 1974 film starring Jon Voight....

(from Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy , is a New York Times bestselling author who has written several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into Oscar-nominated films.-Early life:...

's autobiographical novel), and Norma Rae
Norma Rae
Norma Rae is a 1979 American drama film that tells the story of a factory worker from a small town in North Carolina, who becomes involved in the labor union activities at the textile factory where she works...

(Oscar for Sally Field
Sally Field
Sally Margaret Field is an American actress, singer, producer, director, and screenwriter. In each decade of her career, she has been known for major roles in American TV/film culture, including: in the 1960s, for Gidget or Sister Bertrille on The Flying Nun ; in the 1970s, for Sybil , Smokey and...

 as Best Actress).

In 1976, Ritt made one of the first dramatic feature films about the blacklist, The Front
The Front
The Front is a 1976 film drama about the Hollywood blacklist during the age of live television. It is written by Walter Bernstein, directed by Martin Ritt and stars Woody Allen and Zero Mostel....

, starring Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

. The Front satirizes the use of fronts, men and women who (either as a personal favor or in exchange for payment) allowed their names to be listed as writers for scripts actually authored by blacklisted writers. The film was based on the experiences of, and written by, one of Ritt's closest friends, screenwriter Walter Bernstein
Walter Bernstein
Walter Bernstein is an American screenwriter and film producer who was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios in the 1950s.-Early life:...

, who was blacklisted for eight years beginning in 1950.

Ritt scored another hit with Cross Creek
Cross Creek
As a place in the United States, Cross Creek may refer to: *Cross Creek , a waterway connecting Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake in southeastern Alachua County**Cross Creek, Florida, a community centered on the Cross Creek waterway...

, the story of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was an American author who lived in rural Florida and wrote novels with rural themes and settings. Her best known work, The Yearling, about a boy who adopts an orphaned fawn, won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939 and was later made into a movie, also known as The...

, author of The Yearling
The Yearling
The Yearling is a 1946 Technicolor family film drama made by MGM. It was directed by Clarence Brown and produced by Sidney Franklin. The screenplay was by Paul Osborn and John Lee Mahin , adapted from the novel of the same name by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings...

. It was nominated (but didn't win) four Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress Alfre Woodard
Alfre Woodard
Alfre Ette Woodard is an American film, stage, and television actress. She has been nominated once for an Academy Award and Grammy Awards, 17 times for Emmy Awards , and has also won a Golden Globe and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.She is known for her role in films such as Cross Creek, Miss...

 and Best Supporting Actor Rip Torn
Rip Torn
Elmore Rual "Rip" Torn, Jr. , is an American actor of stage, screen and television.Torn received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 film Cross Creek. His work includes the role of Artie, the producer, on The Larry Sanders Show, for which he was nominated...

.

In 1987, Ritt again utilized extensive flashback
Flashback (narrative)
Flashback is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point the story has reached. Flashbacks are often used to recount events that happened before the story’s primary sequence of events or to fill in crucial backstory...

 and nonlinear storytelling techniques in the film Nuts
Nuts (film)
Nuts is a 1987 American drama film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Barbra Streisand and Richard Dreyfuss. The screenplay by Tom Topor, Darryl Ponicsan, and Alvin Sargent is based on Topor's 1979 play of the same title...

, based on the stage play of the same name
Nuts (play)
Nuts is a 1979 play by Tom Topor. It is a suspense, psychological, and courtroom drama that explores sexual abuse issues, family and social power dynamics, and aspects of the criminal court system. It was staged off-off-Broadway in 1979 and transferred to Broadway the following year...

, written by Tom Topor
Tom Topor
Tom Topor is an American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. Topor was born in Vienna, Austria, and was brought to London in 1939, where he remained until he came to New York City in 1949. He earned his bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College in 1961.Topor is the author of the 1980 play and 1987...

. The film was considered a box office disappointment in relation to its budget, although it did not actually lose money.

Ritt died at age 76 in Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica is a beachfront city in western Los Angeles County, California, US. Situated on Santa Monica Bay, it is surrounded on three sides by the city of Los Angeles — Pacific Palisades on the northwest, Brentwood on the north, West Los Angeles on the northeast, Mar Vista on the east, and...

 on December 8, 1990.

Selected films

  • Edge of the City
    Edge of the City
    Edge of the City is a 1957 drama film directed by Martin Ritt, starring John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier. It was Ritt's debut film as a director...

    (1957)
  • No Down Payment
    No Down Payment
    No Down Payment is a 1957 film directed by Martin Ritt. It was scripted by Philip Yordan, who fronted for a then uncredited and blacklisted Ben Maddow and is based on the novel of the same name by John McPartland...

    (1957)
  • The Long Hot Summer (1958)
  • The Black Orchid
    The Black Orchid (1958 film)
    -Plot:Rose Bianco, a florist widowed from a famous gangster, looks for happiness with widower Frank Valente .- Cast :*Sophia Loren ... Rose Bianco*Anthony Quinn ... Frank Valente*Peter Mark Richman ... Noble...

    (1958)
  • The Sound and the Fury
    The Sound and the Fury
    The Sound and the Fury is a novel written by the American author William Faulkner. It employs a number of narrative styles, including the technique known as stream of consciousness, pioneered by 20th century European novelists such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Published in 1929, The Sound and...

    (1959)
  • 5 Branded Women
    5 Branded Women
    -Plot:Yugoslav partisans grimly crop the hair of a village quintet of women believed to have consorted with the occupational Nazis. Four, for various reasons, have indeed - and their seducer is a lone, swaggering sergeant whom the partisans briskly emasculate...

  • Paris Blues
    Paris Blues
    Paris Blues is an American feature film filmed on location in Paris, starring Sidney Poitier as expatriate jazz musician Eddie Cook, and Paul Newman as trombone-playing Ram Bowen. The two men romance two vacationing American tourists, Connie Lampson and Lillian Corning respectively...

    (1961)
  • Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man
    Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man
    Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man is a 1962 drama film directed by Martin Ritt based on the Nick Adams stories by Ernest Hemingway, and featuring Richard Beymer as Adams.-Cast:*Richard Beymer as Nick Adams*Diane Baker as Carolyn...

    (1962)
  • Hud
    Hud (film)
    Hud is a 1963 western film whose title character is an embittered and selfish modern-day cowboy. With screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., based on Larry McMurtry's 1961 novel Horseman, Pass By, it was directed by Martin Ritt and stars Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal and...

    (1963)
  • The Outrage
    The Outrage
    The Outrage is a remake of the 1950 Japanese film Rashomon, reformulated as a Western. Like the original Akira Kurosawa film, four people give contradictory accounts of a rape and murder. Kurosawa is credited with the screenplay. It was directed by Martin Ritt and is based on stories by Ryūnosuke...

    (1964)
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (film)
    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a 1965 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by John le Carré. It was adapted by Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper. The film stars Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, along with Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Peter van Eyck, Sam Wanamaker, Rupert Davies and Cyril Cusack...

    (1965)
  • Hombre
    Hombre (film)
    Hombre is a 1967 revisionist western film directed by Martin Ritt, based on the novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard. It stars Paul Newman, Richard Boone, Martin Balsam, Diane Cilento and Fredric March....

    (1967)
  • The Brotherhood
    The Brotherhood (1968 film)
    The Brotherhood is a 1968 crime drama film, directed by Martin Ritt. It stars Kirk Douglas, Irene Papas, Alex Cord, and Luther Adler. The script was by Lewis John Carlino....

    (1968)
  • The Great White Hope
    The Great White Hope
    The Great White Hope is a 1967 play written by Howard Sackler, later adapted in 1970 for a film of the same name. The play was first produced by Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and debuted on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on October 3, 1968 for a run of 546 performances, directed by Edwin Sherin...

    (1970)
  • The Molly Maguires
    The Molly Maguires (film)
    The Molly Maguires is a 1970 American film based on a novel by Arthur H. Lewis that was directed by Martin Ritt. It stars Richard Harris and Sean Connery....

    (1970)
  • Sounder
    Sounder (film)
    Sounder is a 1972 film starring Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Kevin Hooks, Carmen Mathews, Taj Mahal, Eric Hooks and Janet MacLachlan. It was adapted by Lonne Elder III and directed by Martin Ritt from the 1970 Newbery Medal-winning novel Sounder by William H...

    (1972)
  • Pete 'n' Tillie
    Pete 'n' Tillie
    Pete 'n' Tillie is a 1972 American comedy-drama film starring Walter Matthau and Carol Burnett in the title roles. Its advertising tagline was "Honeymoon's over...

    (1972)
  • Conrack
    Conrack
    Conrack can refer to:* Conrack, the 1974 film starring Jon Voight....

    (1974)
  • The Front
    The Front
    The Front is a 1976 film drama about the Hollywood blacklist during the age of live television. It is written by Walter Bernstein, directed by Martin Ritt and stars Woody Allen and Zero Mostel....

    (1976)
  • Casey's Shadow
    Casey's Shadow
    Casey's Shadow is a 1978 drama film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Walter Matthau. It was based on the short story "Ruidoso" by John McPhee.- Plot :...

    (1978)
  • Norma Rae
    Norma Rae
    Norma Rae is a 1979 American drama film that tells the story of a factory worker from a small town in North Carolina, who becomes involved in the labor union activities at the textile factory where she works...

    (1979)
  • Cross Creek
    Cross Creek
    As a place in the United States, Cross Creek may refer to: *Cross Creek , a waterway connecting Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake in southeastern Alachua County**Cross Creek, Florida, a community centered on the Cross Creek waterway...

    (1983)
  • Murphy's Romance
    Murphy's Romance
    Murphy's Romance is a 1985 romantic comedy film adapted by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch from a story by Max Schott and directed by Martin Ritt...

    (1985)
  • Nuts
    Nuts (film)
    Nuts is a 1987 American drama film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Barbra Streisand and Richard Dreyfuss. The screenplay by Tom Topor, Darryl Ponicsan, and Alvin Sargent is based on Topor's 1979 play of the same title...

    (1987)
  • Stanley & Iris (1990)

External links

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