Stephen Colbert is fifty years old today, but like a lot of entertainers, his life is really boring so I skipped him. Instead, I went with a really great director who you’ve probably never heard of. He got his start as a choreographer on stage and then eventually on the screen. This isn’t so strange. Bob Fosse was one of the greatest choreographers ever and then went on to be one of the great directors. I don’t think that’s too surprising. Dance is all about telling a story, but without words. And regardless of how you dress it up, films are about story telling. Oh, I forgot to tell you who I’m talking about!
On this day in 1927, the film director and much more, Herbert Ross was born. Most people haven’t heard of him, but they’ve seen and enjoyed his films: The Owl and the Pussycat, Play It Again, Sam, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Goodbye Girl, Footloose, Steel Magnolias, and Boys on the Side. I’ve left out a lot of films, most of which you’ve probably seen and enjoyed. He wasn’t an ostentatious director, but he was artful.
My favorite of his films is Funny Girl. He didn’t direct the film. (William Wyler, also a great director, did so.) Ross choreographed it. But my understand is that he directed the musical numbers. And they are the high points of the film. So here is what might as well be a short film, the “I’m the Greatest Star” number. I just love it:
I think we over-value what film directors do. From D W Griffith to Martin Scorsese, they are just trying to tell stories. And when they do it artfully with style, they are at the top of their profession. Herbert Ross was such a director who made the raw materials of his films into something even better. The next time you are looking for a good, funny, and entertaining movie to watch, find one by Herbert Ross. You won’t be disappointed.
Happy birthday Herbert Ross!
Another of Ross’ films was Pennies from Heaven. I wrote a fairly harsh review of the film recently. But as I note, the film is great; it is just brought to its knees by Steve Martin’s performance. Despite everything else, it is worth watching.