Click here to send us your inquires or call (852) 36130518
Showing posts with label Director. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Director. Show all posts


FOSTER, JODIE (Alicia Christian Foster) (1962– ) Actress, Director

Known for her subtle acting and fierce intelligence, Jodie Foster is perhaps the most widely respected actress in Hollywood. On November 19, 1962, she was born Alicia Christian Foster in Los Angeles, California. Only months before, her father had left her mother, Brandy. Raising Jodie and her three siblings alone, Brandy supported the family by working as a publicist, until Jodie’s brother Buddy began finding jobs as a child actor. With Brandy as his manager, he appeared in many commercials and as a regular on the Mayberry R.F .D. television series (1968–71).

Jodie began her own career at age three. Taken along on one of Buddy’s auditions, she was spotted and hired to appear in an ad for Coppertone suntan lotion. Over the next five years, she made 45 commercials. When she was eight, her mother considered her ready for acting. After her debut on Mayberry R.F .D., she guested on more than 50 shows and starred in two short-lived situation comedies—Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice (1973) and Paper Moon (1974–75). As Buddy’s career stalled, Jodie’s began to fiourish. She was soon her family’s primary breadwinner. At 10, Jodie started acting in feature films. She became a staple of live action Disney films, appearing in Napoleon and Samantha (1972), Freaky Friday (1977), and Candleshoe (1977). She found more challenging work playing a spirited troublemaker in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974). Two years later, Scorsese invited her to play a far grittier role—that of a teenage prostitute in his nihilistic Taxi Driver (1976). Jodie initially wanted to turn down the part. “I was the Disney kid,” she later explained. “I thought, ‘What would my friends sayfi’” Brandy Foster, however, refused to let her give up the chance to work with Scorsese and the film’s star, Robert De Niro. After undergoing a series of psychological tests to prove that she could cope with the movie’s violence, Jodie at 14 delivered one of the most lauded performances of her career. In addition to an Oscar nomination, she won the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics awards for best supporting actress.

Under Brandy’s supervision, Foster continued to choose offbeat roles. She played a vamp in the all-child musical Bugsy Malone (1976) and a murderer in the thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976). In 1980, Foster portrayed unusually complex teenagers in two well-received films, Foxes and Carny.

After 17 years in front of the camera, Foster stunned the film industry in 1980 by deciding to attend Yale University full time. Always an avid reader and brilliant student, she saw her college years as way of, at least temporarily, escaping the limelight. In a horrific twist of fate, Foster instead was thrust into the headlines when John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. Obsessed with Foster’ s character in Taxi Driver, Hinckley stated that he was in love with Foster and had shot the president as a way of winning her affection. Subsequently receiving death threats from several other deranged admirers, Foster had to be escorted around campus by armed bodyguards. While still at Yale, Foster acted occasionally, including taking a starring role in the film The Hotel New Hampshire (1984). Yet, after graduating with honors, she had difficulty finding acting jobs. Only after vigorous lobbying was she able to win the part of Sarah Tobias, a foul-mouthed gangrape victim, in The Accused (1988). Endowing her character with a powerful sense of dignity, Foster was rewarded with an Oscar for best actress.

After having minor critical successes acting in Five Corners (1988) and Stealing Home (1988), Foster took a turn at directing with Little Man Tate (1991). The story of a child prodigy raised be a single mother echoed many aspects of her own youth. In 1992, she formed her own productioncompany, Egg Pictures. Her deal with Polygram Filmed Entertainment allowed her to act, direct, or produce the films made by Egg, giving her fiexibility and power enjoyed by few movie actresses.

In 1991, Foster received her second Oscar for best actress, playing an FBI agent battling a serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs. She had less success with Sommersby (1993), a Civil War romance, and Maverick (1994), a comedy set in the Old West. In her first Egg production, Nell (1994), Foster was nominated for another best actress Oscar, but the film failed to find an audience. Her second directorial effort, Home for the Holidays (1995), met a similar fate. Even though many films in the 1990s were box-office disappointments, Foster remained one of Hollywood’s leading actresses. For her performance in Anna and the King (1999), Foster received $15 million, a pay rate higher than that of any other film actress at the time, with the exception of JULIA ROBERTS. Self-assured in both her private and professional life, the unmarried Foster gave birth to a boy, Charlie, in 1998. She had a second child in 2001, refusing to answer any questions regarding either’s paternity. With equal confidence, Foster in 2000 bowed out of Hannibal, the big-budget sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, to direct Flora Plum (2002), signaling her increasing interest in working behind the camera.

Further Reading
Kennedy, Phillipa. Jodie Foster: A Life on Screen. New York: Birch Lane Press, 1996.
Smolen, Diane. The Films of Jodie Foster. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing, 1996.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
The Accused (1988). Paramount, VHS, 1996.
Little Man Tate (1991). MGM/UA, VHS, 2000.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Image Entertainment, DVD, 1998.
Taxi Driver (1976). Columbia/Tristar, DVD/VHS, 1999.


LUPINO, IDA (1918–1995) Actress, Director

A leading actress in American film noir, Ida Lupino today is best remembered as one of the few female movie directors of the 1940s and 1950s. She was born on February 4, 1918, in London, England, into a family whose show-business roots could be traced to the Renaissance. According to Hollywood legend, Lupino secured her first film role when she accompanied her mother, musical comedy actress Connie Emerald, to an audition. Ida was cast in the movie, while her mother walked away empty-handed. While still in her teens, Lupino signed a contract with Paramount. Following a string of ingenue roles, she found her greatest screen roles in the early 1940s, playing determined, often desperate women in popular melodramas, most notably They Drive By Night (1940) and  High Sierra (1941). As her star was rising, she married actor Louis Hayward in 1938. The couple divorced seven years later.

Though Lupino was enjoying a successful acting career, by the mid-1940s she was looking to work behind the camera. In a 1945 interview, she stated, “I see myself developing new talent. . .. I am genuinely more interested in the talent of others than I am in my own.” With this in mind, she founded Emerald Productions (later named Filmmakers) with her second husband, Collier Young, whom she married in 1948. On the production company’s first effort, Not Wanted (1949), Lupino was credited as producer and coscreenwriter. She had also, however, taken over the director’s chair, after the credited director, Elmer Clifton, had a heart attack.

 Filmmakers Productions made seven more features, which Lupino and Young cowrote and coproduced. Six were also directed by Lupino. Lupino’s films, made on tight budgets with no stars, were distinguished by the tough social issues they addressed, including single motherhood, female sexuality, and bigamy. Unlike most Hollywood fare, they not only presented modern problems but also offered no easy answers to how they might be solved. Although none of Lupino’s features were highly profitable, she did produce two films now considered classics of film noirThe Bigamist (1953) and  The Hitch-Hiker (1953).

After a misguided attempt to become a film distribution company, Filmmakers was dissolved in 1954. Lupino subsequently directed only one other film, The Trouble with Angels (1966). During the 1960s, however, she found a new career in directing episodes of television series. With a reputation for working quickly, Lupino directed more than 100 programs, including episodes of The Donna Reed Show, Gilligan’s Island, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Somewhat to her dismay, Lupino was eventually typed as an action director and was most often sought after to work on westerns, such as Have Gun, Will Travel and Gunsmoke.

Lupino also appeared on television as an actress. Her most notable role was as the costar of the short-lived series Mr. Adams and Eve (1957–58), which was also starred Howard Duff, whom she married after divorcing Young in 1950. (Lupino and Duff had one daughter but were also divorced in 1984.) From time to time, Lupino guest-starred on series as well, including her final acting performance on an episode of Charlie’s Angels in the mid-1970s.

In her final years, she lived to see her directorial career reexamined by film scholars in the 1970s and 1980s. Although she resisted being seen as a feminist director, she enjoyed that, fitting with her own preferences, her directing came to overshadow her more publicized success as an actress. Lupino died on August 3, 1995, in Burbank, California.

Further Reading
Donati, William. Ida Lupino: A Biography. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.
Kuhn, Annette, ed. Queen of the ‘B’s: Ida Lupino: Behind the Camera.Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
They Drive by Night (1940). Warner Home Video, VHS, 2000. (V).
The Hitch-hiker (1952). Kino  Video, DVD/VHS, 2000/1997.
Biography: Ida Lupino. A&E Entertainment, VHS, 1998.


STREISAND, BARBRA (Barbara Joan Streisand) (1942– ) Singer, Actress, Director

The definitive superstar, Barbra Streisand has conquered stage, screen, and the recording industry, amassing millions of devoted fans along the way. Born Barbara Joan Streisand on April 24, 1942, she was raised in the neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. She never knew her father, a high school teacher who died when she was only 15 months old. Five years later, her mother remarried. Barbara’s aloof relationship with her stepfather made her eager to leave home. At 16, after graduating from high school with honors, she fied for Manhattan, where she hoped to become an actress.

Changing the spelling of her first name to the more distinctive Barbra, she found work in a series of unsuccessful off-Broadway shows. When not working she and her friend Brian Dennen developed a nightclub act, in which Streisand sang the songs of FANNY BRICE, the renowned star of the Ziegfeld Follies. Although Streisand considered herself more of an actress than a singer, the act took off. She played long-running engagements at popular clubs such as Bon Soir and the Blue Angel and toured briefiy as the opening act for the pianist Liberace. While performing at the Blue Angel, Streisand was spotted by the producer of I Can Get It for You Wholesale. In the 1962 musical, she was cast as Miss Marmelstein, a saucy secretary. The show, which ran for nine months, made Streisand a star. During its run, she met costar Elliot Gould, whom she married in 1963. Streisand and Gould had one child, Jason, before divorcing in 1971.

Streisand’s popularity only grew with the release of her first record, The Barbra Streisand Album. It became the top-selling album by a female artist in 1963 and earned her Grammy Awards for best album and best female vocal. The next year, she won the role of a lifetime when she was given the lead in Funny Girl, a musical romance based on the life of Fanny Brice. Streisand had to audition seven times, beating out  CAROL BURNETT and  MARY MARTIN for what would become her signature role. After the show’s enormous success on Broadway, however, she was the only choice to play the part in the movie version of  Funny Girl (1968). For her movie debut, Streisand won the Oscar for best actress in a tie with KATHARINE HEPBURN. For the times, Streisand made an unconventional movie star. With slightly crossed eyes and long nose, she had unusual features that distinguished her from other film starlets. Often playing an ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan by her own charisma, Streisand helped reshape the standards of Hollywood beauty. Having established herself in film, Streisand then turned to television. The first of many teleision specials, My Name Is Barbra (1965) provided a well-crafted showcase for her musical talents. The special drew a huge audience and won five Emmy Awards.

Streisand returned to the musical genre in her next two movies,  Hello Dolly! (1969) and  On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970). She found equal success as she moved into straight comedy with films such as The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and What’s Up Doc (1972). Her biggest hit of the early 1970s, however, was The Way We Were (1973), a romantic drama that paired her with Robert Redford. The film and its theme, sung by Streisand, were enormous popular hits, making her the biggest female star in Hollywood during the 1970s.

In 1976, Streisand began working behind the camera with A Star Is Born (1976), a third remake of What Price Hollywoodfi (1937). She served as the film’s executive producer, while her boyfriend Jon Peters, a former hairdresser, was billed as its producer. In addition to starring in  Star, Streisand wrote the music for its Oscar-winning love theme, “Evergreen.” She was also credited as the film’s wardrobe consultant and designer of “musical concepts.” During the filming, press accounts accused her of egomania, a taunt Streisand believed smacked of sexism. She has frequently maintained that her supposed pushiness and arrogance would be seen as ambition if she were a man. Although critically savaged, Born was a huge box-office success.

Streisand acted in two undistinguished movies—The Main Event (1979) and  All Night Long (1981)—before appearing in her dream film, Yentl (1983). Based on a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, the movie cast her as a young Jewish woman who disguises herself as a boy so she can receive a religious education denied to female students. Spending five years on the project, Streisand directed, cowrote, and coproduced the movie. A modest hit that was well-received by critics, Yentl established Streisand as a director to watch. Her next directorial effort, The Prince of Tides (1991), won even greater acclaim. The film received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for best picture. Streisand’s direction, however, was not given an Oscar nod—a fact that, to many in Hollywood, revealed the film industry’s bias against women in positions of authority. She also weathered criticism for photographing herself in a glamorizing haze, even though her costar Nick Nolte was shot in the same manner. The year 1991 saw the released of  Just for the Record, a four-CD collection of her recordings since the 1960s. She has released more than 50 albums, including 12 that have gone multiplatinum. Throughout her career, she has also recorded many successful singles, including hit duets with Neil Diamond, Donna Summer, Barry Gibb, and Celine Dion.

In 1992, Streisand returned to the concert stage for her first tour in 25 years. She had abandoned live performances in 1967, when an anti-Semitic death threat left her with a paralyzing case of stage fright. Her tour was a sensation. In addition to paying astronomical prices for tickets, her fans bought millions of dollars worth of tour memorabilia sold at Barbra Boutiques across the country. Also in 1992, Streisand established the Streisand Foundation to promote social and political causes of interest to her. A friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, she emerged in the 1990s as Hollywood’s leading spokesperson for liberal politics. She had been a particularly vocal advocate of gay rights. In 1995, she mixed filmmaking and politics by coproducing Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, a television movie that criticized the U.S. military’s ban on homosexuals in its ranks. Streisand returned to the big screen in 1996 with The Mirror Has Two Faces, in which she again directed herself. The light romantic comedy proved only a modest success. Her fans were much more excited by her real-life romance to actor James Brolin. The couple was married in a highly publicized ceremony in 1998.

Streisand brought in the millennium with a New Year’s Eve concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. She has since announced her retirement from live performing. In October 2000, she gave four farewell concerts, with ticket prices selling for as much as $2,500. Streisand continues to work in film and television as a producer, director, and performer. Choosing only projects close to her heart, Streisand has earned a reputation as a consummate professional driven equally by passion and perfectionism. The elite of Hollywood came out to celebrate her trailblazing career in February 2001, when in a gala ceremony she became the first female director honored with the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award.

Further Reading
Cunningham, Ernest W. The Ultimate Barbra. New York: Renaissance Books, 1999.
Edwards, Anne. Streisand. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997.
Nickens, Christopher, and Karen Swenson. The Films of Barbra Streisand. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing, 1998.
Waldman, Allison J.  The Barbra Streisand Scrapbook. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing, 1995.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Barbra: The Concert (1994). Sony/Columbia, VHS, 1994.
Funny Girl (1968). Columbia/Tristar, VHS, 1997.
Timeless: Live in Concert. Sony/Columbia, CD set, 2000.
The Way We Were (1973). Columbia/Tristar, DVD/VHS, 1999/1999.
Yentl (1983). MGM/UA, VHS, 1989.


GISH, LILLIAN (1893–1993) Actress, Director

Born the same year the movie camera was invented, Lillian Gish was one of the most infiuential pioneers of the film industry. She was born in Springfield, Ohio, on October 14, 1893 (although, to make her seem younger, her birth year was later given as 1896). The Gishes soon moved to New York City, where her father abandoned the family. Left to care for Lillian and her little sister, Dorothy, on her own, Gish’s mother, Mary, managed a boardinghouse for performers. There, all three were drawn into the world of the theater. “Baby Lillian,” as she was billed, made her stage debut in In Convict Stripes in 1902. For the rest of her youth, she spent most of her time appearing in touring companies, often traveling alone from show to show.

In New York, the Gish sisters became friends with another young actress, Gladys Smith, who would soon find superstardom as MARY PICKFORD. Then working for the Biograph film studio, Smith introduced them to director D. W. Griffith, who was immediately struck by their delicate beauty. Legend has it that, without warning, he shot a prop gun over their heads. The Gish girls’ horrified shrieks convinced him that they could emote onscreen. Griffith promptly hired them to work in his next film An Unseen Enemy (1912). They soon followed Griffith to the Mutual Film Corporation, where he and Lillian collaborated on several of the greatest films of the silent era.

Griffith always encouraged ideas and suggestions from his players, a practice that was particularly fruitful in his relationship with Lillian Gish. They both shared a commitment to film, which they viewed as legitimate art form at a time when few considered it more than a curiosity. On Griffith’s advice, Gish researched her roles thoroughly, reading voraciously to prepare herself for every part, even though she had had nearly no formal education. She also took lessons in voice and dance, eventually becoming a skilled athlete able and willing to do dangerous stunt work. Her devotion to her work is clear from an anecdote recounted by an eyewitness who watched Griffith film Gish outside during a snowstorm: “D. W. would ask her if she could stand it, and she would nod. The icicles hung from her lashes, and her face was blue. When the last shot was made they had to carry her to the studio.”With Griffith’s encouragement, Gish developed a particularly effective acting style that almost immediately distinguished her from her peers.

Most theater actors were trained to use broad gestures that looked too mannered and stiff on the screen. Gish sensed that film required much more subtle gestures and more subdued demonstrations of feeling. Especially in close-ups, she was able to use small changes in her facial expressions to communicate deep, often even contradictory emotions. Ever since, film acting has been based on these early innovations of Gish. In Gish’s first films, she often played a young woman in danger, who is dramatically saved at the last minute. Lovely, yet frail-looking, she, under Griffith’s infiuence, became the embodiment of innocent, female virtue. Gish’s own forcefulness, however, lent an underlying strength to her idealized screen persona.

Gish emerged as a bona fide film star with the release of The Birth of a Nation (1915), which became the most successful silent film ever made. Controversial for its racist presentation of African Americans, Nation was the first narrative film epic and introduced many of the shots and techniques that now serve as the basic syntax of moviemaking. In it, Gish starred as Elsie Stoneman, a young woman suffering various travails during the chaos of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Gish also appeared in Griffith’s masterpiece Intolerance (1916), the director’s response to efforts to ban his earlier film. Its four sections, set in different time periods, were linked by the repeated image of Gish rocking a cradle.

Gish delivered perhaps her most powerful performance in Broken Blossoms (1919), although she begged Griffith to cast someone else in the lead. Then in her late 20s, she felt far too old to be convincing as a young girl terrorized by her violent father. Despite her hesitance, she proved convincing, especially in her climactic death scene. The intensity of her fear as her father beats her to death left audiences in a stunned silence at the picture’s end. Gish also won great acclaim for Griffith’s Way Down East (1920) and Orphans of the Storm (1922), the latter of which also starred her sister, Dorothy. Gish’s tenure as Griffith’s muse came to end when he realized her name could sell more tickets than his. Calling her into his office, he told her he could no longer pay her what she was worth, insisting that for her own interest she needed to work elsewhere to fully capitalize on her success. Gish hesitantly went off on her own. She invested money in Inspiration Films, where she made The White Sister (1923) and Romola (1924). Gish then signed a lucrative five-movie deal with MetroGoldwyn-Mayer (MGM) that gave her control over the stories and directors chosen for her. Her MGM films included La Boheme (1926), TheScarlet Letter (1926), and The Wind (1928). In the 1930s, Gish made the transition into talking pictures with One Romantic Night (1930) and His Double Life (1933). Yet she found her popularity fading due to changes in public tastes. Audiences now wanted to see fiappers like CLARA BOW and exotic beauties like GRETA GARBO—not the Victorian angels with whom Gish had become so closely associated. Gish responded by returning to the stage, where she quickly revived her career.

She was well-received in a number of classic dramas, including Uncle Vanya and Hamlet, in which she played Ophelia opposite John Gielgud. She also became a fixture in New York intellectual circles owing to her friendship with critic George Jean Nathan, who repeatedly proposed marriage to her. She always refused, later explaining, “What kind of marriage would it have been to a wife who worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week.”By the mid-1940s, Gish was also working periodically in films, often in supporting roles. As a supporting actress, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in Duel in the Sun (1947). Soon she was appearing regularly on television as well, in made-for-television movies and as a guest star on series.

An advocate for film preservation, Gish wrote two books about her life in movies—The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me (1969) and Dorothy and Lillian Gish (1973). In 1969, she began discussing her career in a lecture series, Lillian Gish and the Movies, which eventually toured the United States, Canada, western Europe, and Russia. Her work was also celebrated with a special Oscar in 1971, a Kennedy Center Honor in 1982, and an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984. Gish’s final film was The Whales of August (1987), which paired her with another screen legend, BETTE DAVIS. During the filming, the cast and crew were awed by Gish’s emotive powers in a particular scene. The acerbic Davis, exasperated with the to-do, offered her own more pointed and perhaps more fitting praise for Gish’s performance. “Of course, it’s a great close-up. She invented the goddam shot.”On February 27, 1993, Lillian Gish died in her sleep, just months away from her 100th birthday. In her will, she established the “Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award,” which each year pays the annual proceeds from her multimillion-dollar estate to a person distinguished in the arts.

Further Reading
Affron, Charles. Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life. New York: Scribner, 2001.
Gish, Lillian. Dorothy and Lillian Gish. New York: Scribners, 1973.
Gish, Lillian, with Ann Pinchot. The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me. 1969. Reprint, San Francisco: Mercury House, 1988.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
The Birth of a Nation (1915). Image Entertainment, DVD, 1998.
Broken Blossoms (1919). Image Entertainment, DVD, 1999.
Duel in the Sun (1946). Anchor Bay Entertainment, DVD/VHS, 2000/1998.
Orphans of the Storm (1921). Image Entertainment, DVD, 1998.


DE MILLE, AGNES (1905–1993) Dancer, Choreographer, Director

On Broadway and at the ballet, Agnes de Mille was a pioneer who introduced distinctly American themes and movements into the world of dance. Born in New York City on September 18, 1905, she was raised in one of the most prominent U.S. show business families. Her father, William, was a playwright and theater director, and her uncle Cecil was perhaps the country’s best-known film director.

When Agnes was nine, her family moved to Los Angeles so that her father could find work in the growing movie industry. Agnes soon knew her way around a movie set and frequently took jobs as an extra. However, she was far more impressed by the dance performances she attended. Admiring the work of RUTH ST. DENIS, ISADORA DUNCAN, and Anna Pavlova, she grew determined to become a dancer herself, despite her parents’ disapproval of her plans. She finally convinced them to pay for ballet lessons when she was 13, far older than most professional dancers begin their formal training. Bowing to family pressure, she gave up her dream in 1921 and entered college at the University of California, Los Angeles. Four years later, she graduated cum laude with a degree in English.

Now 20 years old, de Mille moved back to New York and renewed her commitment to a dance career. She soon found her body ill-suited for work as either a ballerina or a Broadway chorus girl. She later wrote, “I was built like a mustang, stocky, mettlesome and sturdy”—a distinct contrast from the lithe and leggy bodies of most professional dancers. With characteristic pluck, de Mille decided that if no one would hire her to perform their dances, she would create her own with her body type in mind. In 1928, she began a decadelong period of staging concerts of her own dance compositions in the United States and Europe. Highly dramatic, they were unique in telling the stories of frontierswomen and other ordinary Americans and in integrating movements de Mille borrowed from folk dances. Already seen as an innovator in modern dance, de Mille in 1931 staged some of her works at the Dance Repertory Theater, which also showcased early dances by MARTHA GRAHAM and DORIS HUMPHREY.

The next year, de Mille set off for England, where she studied ballet with Anthony Tudor. While living in London, she made a substantial impact on English dance by introducing her associates to new currents in American modern dance, particularly the technical innovations of Graham. As World War II broke out in Europe, de Mille returned home and took a post as a choreographer for the Ballet Theater (later renamed the American Ballet Theater). There, she created her first major work, the controversial Black Ritual (1939), which featured an all-black cast. She found greater popular success with Three Virgins and a Devil (1941), a comic dance piece that Graham called “a little masterpiece.”

Based on the strength of her work with the Ballet Theater, the director of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo hired de Mille to choreograph an “all-American” ballet. The result was her most famous ballet, Rodeo (1941). Danced to the music of Aaron Copland, Rodeo told the story of a cowgirl looking for a man. De Mille found hiring dancers for the work taxing since classical ballet instruction did little to prepare them for the vigorous movements her dance demanded. Of her cowboy dancers, she later wrote, “Alas, though big boys, they had been trained to move like wind-blown petals. ‘Raise your arms,’ I begged them. ‘You have men’s arms, . . . they can control a heavy, moving rope, or the brute furies of an eight-hundred-pound animal.’”Despite the challenges of bringing Rodeo to the stage, its premiere was an enormous success. With de Mille dancing the role of the cowgirl, the ballet’s performers received 22 curtain calls.

The success of Rodeo made de Mille the natural choice to choreograph Oklahoma! (1943), a musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein about cowboys and ranchers at the beginning of the 20th century. Oklahoma! is now seen as a hallmark in American theater because it was the first musical to fully integrate music and dance into the dramatic action. In addition, de Mille’s choreography changed Broadway dance by blending ballet and modern dance. It also introduced the device of the “dream dance.” At the end of the first act, the lead female character, Laurie, has a dream that reveals her subconscious fears and desires, which are acted out by dancers in an extended ballet sequence. The “dream dance” immediately became a staple in American musical theater. Soon after Oklahoma! ’s premiere, de Mille married Walter Foy Prude. The couple remained together until Prude’s death in 1988. They had one son, who was born in 1946.

Oklahoma! ’s phenomenal five-year run made de Mille Broadway’s most sought-after choreographer. She created dances for many classic musicals including Carousel (1945), Brigadoon (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), and Paint Your Wagon (1951). With the production of Allegro (1947), De Mille also became the first woman to direct and choreograph a Broadway show. While working on Broadway, de Mille continued her association with the Ballet Theater. Her most important ballet of this period was Fall River Legend (1948), which was based on the Lizzie Borden ax-murder case.

In the 1950s, de Mille became one of the foremost promoters of modern dance. On tours in 1953 and 1954, she managed the Agnes de Mille Dance Theater, which helped popularize her choreography by staging excerpts from her Broadway works and selections from her early concerts. In two television documentaries, The Art of Ballet and The Art of Choreography (both 1956), she sought to explain two of her greatest loves to a mass audience. Also to interest the public in dance, de Mille launched side careers as a writer and a lecturer. The author of many books, some autobiographical, de Mille is among the most eloquent writers on American modern dance.

To preserve her works for future generations, de Mille helped establish the Agnes de Mille Heritage Dance Theater at the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1973. The venture floundered, however, when de Mille suffered a stroke two years later. In spite of her deteriorating health, she was determined to fight her limitations so she could continue to work. She even taught herself to write with her left hand in order to record her recovery in her book Reprieve (1976). Examples of her late choreography include Texas Fourth (1976), The Informer (1988), and The Other (1992), a dance dealing with the theme of death that was to be her final work. De Mille died on October 6, 1993, leaving an incomparable legacy as a dancer, choreographer, writer, and champion of American dance.

Further Reading
De Mille, Agnes. Dance to the Piper and And Promenade Home: A Two-Part Autobiography. New York: Da Capo Press, 1979.
Easton, Carol. No Intermissions: The Life of Agnes de Mille. Boston: Little Brown, 1996.

Recommended Recorded and Videotaped Performances
Brigadoon (1954). Warner Home Video, DVD/VHS, 2000.
Oklahoma! (1955). Twentieth Century-Fox, DVD/VHS, 1999.