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Richard Brooks was born Ruben Sax in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1912 to Russian Jewish immigrants. After college he became a newspaper sports reporter. He then tried several jobs, in radio, as a theater director, and, starting in the early 1940s, as a screenwriter and novelist. He was in the Marines during WWII, and when he got out he wrote a novel, The Brick Foxhole, which told the then "un-tellable" story of a group of Marines on leave who pick up a gay man and then murder him. Hollywood wanted to make a movie of this great story, but the only way it could be made was to turn the murder victim into a Jewish man, and it became the memorable Crossfire, starring Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Ryan. But in between writing the novel and it becoming a movie, Brooks helped with the screenplay for The Killers, and wrote the great great screeplay for Brute Force, and after Crossfire, he wrote Key Largo. All four movies were major successes, and in 1950 Brooks directed his first movie, Crisis. He started writing and directing all his movies, and in 1952 he did Deadline - U.S.A. (the best movie about newspapers ever made, and Brooks drew on his experience as a reporter). In 1955 he did the superb Blackboard Jungle. In 1958 he did both The Brothers Karamazov AND Cat on a Hot Tin Roof! In 1960 he married Jean Simmons, and he did Elmer Gantry with her and Burt Lancaster, and he won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay (Lancaster and Supporting Actress Shirley Jones also won Oscars, but his wife was not nominated). Some of his later movies included: Lord Jim, The Professionals (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), In Cold Blood (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), and The Happy Ending, in which he did direct his wife to an Oscar nomination. In 1977 he did the excellent Looking For Mr. Goodbar. That same year he divorced his wife, and he lived another 15 years, mostly hanging out with Hugh Hefner at his Playboy mansion, and he only directed two very forgettable films during that time, eventually passing away in 1992 at the age of 79. Richard Brooks is rarely thought of as one of the greatest directors, likely because he was not an "auteur" with a distinctive style, but his filmography includes many really wonderful movies, and they cover an amazing range of genres! And starting in 1950, he wrote and directed all his movies, one of the only great directors who did so. I highly recommend seeing all of the movies listed above, or any of his movies (except for his final two).
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