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Remembering Director Sydney Pollack

The famed late Sydney Pollack is recognized mostly for directing such Oscar-nominated films as “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969), “Tootsie”(1982), and “Out of Africa” (1985), for which he won a Best Director Oscar. Similar to Hitchcock’s making cameo appearances in film he directed, Sydney appeared as minor characters in the films he produced and directed.

After graduating from high school, Sydney attended The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater in New York and took a particular liking to Sanford Meisner’s Acting Technique. Later, Pollack would become Meisner’s assistant to teach his technique. “. . .I taught acting for years, and without knowing it, that was the real thing that started bending me toward directing.” Sydney later commented.

During this period, Sydney built his experience by acting in Broadway plays as well as appearing in a television shows such as “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” an episode titled “The Contest for Aaron Gold” and “The Twilight Zone,” an episode titled “The Trouble With Templeton.”

While on set of the film “The Young Savages” (1961) as a dialect coach, Sydney met Burt Lancaster, who in turn encouraged Sydney to tackle directing. “Burt Lancaster was largely responsible for me becoming a director,” Sydney credited. While his directorial debut was “The Slender Thread” (1965) starring Sydney Poitier and Anne Bancroft, Sydney did not begin making an appearance in his films until “The Electric Horseman” (1979) which was Sydney’s twenty-third film as a director. He remains an uncredited actor in it but according to Imdb.com, Sydney’s character is labeled as “Man who makes a pass at Alice.”

It is clear with Sydney’s performances as Dustin Hoffman’s agent George Fields in “Tootsie” (1982) and as the ER doctor who tends to Helen (Meryl Streep) after her “fall” down the stairs in the film “Death Becomes Her (1993),” Sydney could brilliantly contribute to the comedy of the scene as well as to the drama as seen in his most recent and last performance as Marty Bach in “Michael Clayton” (2006).

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