Oscar Directors: Perry, Frank (David and Lisa, Mommie Dearest)

Frank Perry, born on August 21, 1930, in an American director, best known for two or three movies, including his debut, the indie David and Lisa, which earned him Best Director nomination, and his then wife Eleanor Perry, Best Adapted Screenplay nod.

Perry formed Corsair Pictures, which was privately financed by UA Theaters, producing two flops, Miss Firecracker and A Shock to the System, before folding.

Frank Joseph Perry Jr. was born in N.Y. to stockbroker Frank Joseph Perry Sr. and Pauline E. Schwab, a niece of Charles M. Schwab, who founded the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

As a teenager, Perry held a job as parking lot attendant for the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, and later attended the University of Miami.

While studying with Lee Strasberg in New York, he produced several plays at Westport Country Playhouse and some TV docus.

A vet of the Korean War, he made his directorial debut in 1962 with the low-budget feature, David and Lisa,  based on the novel by Theodore Isaac Rubin, adapted to the screen by his wife.

A character study of two emotionally disturbed teenagers, the film was successful at the box office and met with critical acclaim, earning him a nomination for Best Director.

Perry directed and produced The Swimmer (1968) based on John Carver’s story, “Last Summer” (1969), starring Burt Lancaster, and Trilogy (1969), penned by Truman Capote.

Perry and wife adapted to the screen Sue Kaufman’s novel Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970), which earned Carrie Snodgress a Best Actress nomination.

This was followed up by Play It As It Lays, starring Tuesday Weld in a Golden Globe nominated turn.

In his later life, he made the campy biopic, Mommie Dearest, an adaptation of the memoirs by Joan Crawford’s adoptive daughter, which portrayed the movie star as a crazed and sadistic control freak, caring more about money and fame than her children.  The film became a cult classic, despite mixed critical reception.

His last feature was the 1992 doc, On the Bridge, which chronicled his battle with prostate cancer.

Perry died on August 29, 1995, at the age of 65.

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