Oscar Directors: Pollack, Sydney (The Way We Were, Tootsie)

Born July 1, 1934, in Lafayette, Indiana, Pollack is the son of first‑generation Russian‑Jew­ish Americans, he was raised in South Bend, where he gradu­ated from high school in 1952, then went to New York and enrolled at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, training under Sanford Meisner. Following a two‑year hitch in the Army in 1957‑58, he returned to the Playhouse as an acting instructor and began performing in TV plays.

A role in a John Frankenheimer TV play led to an assignment for Pollack as dia­logue coach on the director’s feature The Young Savages (1961), an experience that kindled his interest in directing. Pollack directed several teleplays and scores of episodes for such TV series as ‘The Defenders,’ ‘The Fugitive,’ ‘Naked City,’ ‘Dr. Kildare,’ and ‘Ben Casey’ before making his debut as a feature director in 1965 with The Slender Thread, a competent if unre­markable drama.

He made several other credible but routine productions before making a major film as a director, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969). A powerful downbeat drama that used a Depression‑era dance marathon as a micro­cosm of society’s ills, it earned Pollack an Oscar nomination for Best Director and won an Academy Award for Best Actor for Gig Young.

Scoring another triumph with The Way We Were (1973), a touching love story told against the background of political activism, Pollack enhanced his reputa­tion as an effective if conventional filmmaker with a special knack for eliciting great performances from his actors.

He was nominated again for Best Director for the hilarious comedy Tootsie (1982), which also received a Best Picture nomination, and finally won the Oscar Awards in both categories for the exquisitely shot Out of Africa (1985).

In recent years Pollack became increasingly involved in producing.

Pollack died in 2008 at the age of 73.