Oscar Directors: Ross, Herbert–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage)

September 12, 2020

Career Summation

Occupational Inheritance:


Social Class:



Formal Education:


First Film: Goodbye, Mr. Chips, 1969; aged  42


First Oscar Nomination: Turning Point, 1977; aged 50

Gap between First Film and First Nom:

Other Oscars:

Other Oscar Nominations:

Oscar Awards:

Nominations Span:

Genre (specialties):


Last Film:


Career Length:

Career Output:




Herbert David Ross (May 13, 1927 – October 9, 2001) was an American actor, choreographer, director and producer who worked predominantly in theater and film.

Herbert Ross was born on May 13, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Louis Chester Ross,[1] a postal clerk, and his wife Martha (née Grundfast). His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants.[2][3] When Ross was nine, his mother died and his father moved the family to Miami and opened a luncheonette.[4]

After dropping out of high school, Ross went to New York to pursue an acting career but became smitten with and studied dance.

In 1942, Ross’ stage debut came as “Third Witch” in a touring company of Macbeth. The next year brought his first Broadway performance credits with Something for the Boys, as a dancer.

Ross was a dancer in Follow the Girls (1943-44), Laffing Room Only (1944-45), Beggar’s Holiday (1946-47), and Look, Ma, I’m Dancin’!.

By 1950, he was a choreographer with the American Ballet Theatre and choreographed his first Broadway production, the Arthur Schwartz-Dorothy Fields musical adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1951).

For TV he choreographed All Star Revue, The Milton Berle Show, and The Steve Allen Plymouth Show. Ross’s first film assignment came as an uncredited choreographer on Carmen Jones (1954).[5]

Back on Broadway he choreographed House of Flowers (1954) for Peter Brook, and The Body Beautiful (1958). He choreographed some TV specials: The Jerry Lewis Show (1957), Wonderful Town (1958), Meet Me in St Louis (1959) and A Christmas Festival (1959). On Broadway Ross directed and choreographed a revival of Finian’s Rainbow (1960).

Film choreography and Broadway
Ross went to England where he choreographed the feature film The Young Ones (1961) , starring Cliff Richard.

He returned to Broadway to be musical director on The Gay Life (1961-62) and I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962), the latter directed by Arthur Laurents and starring Barbra Streisand. He did Bondage Gladiator Sexy (1961) for TV.

Ross then choreographed a second Cliff Richard musical in England, Summer Holiday (1963).

On Broadway he choreographed Tovarich (1963) with Vivien Leigh and Anyone Can Whistle (1964) with Laurents.

For TV he did musical numbers for The Fantasticks (1964), The Bell Telephone Hour, Rinaldo in camp ((1963), and The Nut House!! (1964) and staged numbers for the films Inside Daisy Clover (1965), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and Doctor Dolittle (1967).

On Broadway Ross directed and choreographed Kelly (1965), and choreographed Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965) and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965-66). He did some additional staging on The Apple Tree (1966-67) directed by Mike Nichols.

Ross was choreographer and director of musical numbers for Funny Girl (1968), produced by Ray Stark.[6][5]

His film directorial debut came with the musical version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), made by MGM-British, with Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark. It was produced by Arthur P. Jacobs who had made Doctor Dolittle two years prior, and just like that film, Goodbye, Mr. Chips was a box-office disappointment. However, Ross’ second feature as director, The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), was a big hit. The film was produced by Ray Stark and starred Streisand.

Ross did T.R. Baskin (1971) then Play It Again, Sam (1972), the latter produced by Jacobs and starring Woody Allen based on his play.

Ross made The Last of Sheila (1973) co-written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins, and Funny Lady (1975) with Stark and Streisand.

Neil Simon
He did The Sunshine Boys (1975) based on a play and script by Neil Simon, starting a long collaboration between the two men; Stark produced.

Ross directed The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), and The Turning Point (1977); Ross produced the latter.[6]

Ross had two big hits with Simon scripts produced by Stark, The Goodbye Girl (1977) and California Suite (1978). Ross returned to Broadway to direct Neil Simon’s Chapter Two (1977-79).

After doing the ballet film Nijinsky (1980)[7] he directed Simon’s I Ought to Be in Pictures (1980-81) on Broadway. He followed this with Pennies from Heaven (1981) and the film version of I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982). His last film with Simon was Max Dugan Returns (1983).

Later career
Ross had a huge hit with Footloose (1984). He followed this with two comedies, Protocol (1984) with Goldie Hawn and The Secret of My Success (1987) with Michael J. Fox. Less successful was Dancers (1987).[8][9][10]

Ross had one last big hit with another play adaptation, Steel Magnolias (1989). He did My Blue Heaven (1990), True Colors (1991), Undercover Blues (1993) and Boys on the Side (1995).

Personal life
In 1959, he married Nora Kaye, a ballerina,[11] with whom he produced four films.[12] In 1987, his wife Nora died of cancer.[4][13]

In September 1988, he married for the second time to Lee Radziwiłł,[14] the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.[15] The marriage ended in divorce in 2001, shortly before his death.[16] In 2013, Radziwiłł described their relationship as follows:[17]

He was certainly different from anybody else I’d been involved with, and the film world sounded exciting. Well, it wasn’t. I hated Hollywood, and the provincialism of the industry … Herbert had been married to the ballerina Nora Kaye until she died, and unbeknownst to me was still obsessed by her. It was ‘Nora said this, Nora did it like that, Nora liked brown and orange.'[18]

On October 9, 2001, Ross died from heart failure in New York City.[19][20] A memorial was held for him at the Majestic Theater on West 44th Street in New York where Leslie Browne, Barbara Cook, Arthur Laurents, Marsha Mason, Mike Nichols and Mary-Louise Parker spoke of Ross.[21] He was interred with Kaye in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[22]

Field Year Production Position Distinctions
Play 1942 Macbeth actor (Third Witch) Debut (touring company)
Play 1943 Something for the Boys Debut (Broadway), music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Play 1944 Laffing Room Only
Play 1946 Beggar’s Holiday
Play 1948 “Look, Ma, I’m Dancin’!”
Play 1950 American Ballet Theatre choreographer
Play 1951 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn choreographer Debut (Broadway production)
Play 1952 Three Wishes for Jamie choreographer Broadway
Film 1954 Carmen Jones choreographer, uncredited Debut (Film)
Play 1954 House of Flowers choreographer Broadway
Play 1958 The Body Beautiful choreographer Broadway
TV 1958 Wonderful Town director Debut (TV film)
Play 1960 Finian’s Rainbow choreographer Broadway, revival
Play 1961 The Gay Life choreographer Broadway
Film 1961 The Young Ones choreographer Cliff Richard
Play 1962 I Can Get It for You Wholesale choreographer Broadway
Film 1963 Summer Holiday choreographer Cliff Richard
Play 1963 Tovarich choreographer Broadway
Play 1964 Anyone Can Whistle choreographer Broadway, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Play 1965 Do I Hear a Waltz? choreographer Broadway, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Play 1965 Kelly director, choreographer Broadway
Play 1965 On a Clear Day You Can See Forever choreographer Broadway
Play 1965 The Apple Tree choreographer Broadway
Film 1968 Funny Girl choreographer musical numbers with Barbra Streisand
Film 1969 Goodbye, Mr. Chips director Debut (Film director), 2 Academy Award nominations.
Film 1970 The Owl and the Pussycat director Barbra Streisand
Film 1971 T.R. Baskin director Peter Hyams
Film 1972 Play It Again, Sam director Woody Allen
Film 1973 The Last of Sheila director, producer Debut (Film producer)
Film 1975 The Sunshine Boys director 4 Academy Award nominations. The film won Best Supporting Actor.
Neil Simon’s play
Film 1975 Funny Lady director 5 Academy Award nominations. Barbra Streisand
Film 1976 The Seven-Per-Cent Solution director, producer 2 Academy Award nominations.
Film 1977 The Turning Point director, producer 11 Academy Award nominations, but no wins.
Ross won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director.
Play 1977 Chapter Two director Neil Simon’s play
Film 1977 The Goodbye Girl director 5 Academy Award nominations. The film won Best Actor.
Film 1978 California Suite director 3 Academy Award nominations. The film won Best Supporting Actress. Neil Simon’s play
Play 1980 I Ought to Be in Pictures director Broadway, Neil Simon’s play
Film 1980 Nijinsky director
Film 1981 Pennies From Heaven director, producer 3 Academy Award nominations.
Film 1982 I Ought to Be in Pictures director, producer Neil Simon’s play
Film 1983 Max Dugan Returns director, producer Neil Simon’s play
Film 1984 Footloose director 2 Academy Award nominations.
Film 1984 Protocol director
Film 1987 The Secret of My Success director, producer
Film 1987 Dancers director
Film 1989 Steel Magnolias director 1 Academy Award nomination for Julia Roberts.
Biggest hit film.
Adaptation of Robert Harling’s play (1987).
Film 1990 My Blue Heaven director, producer
Film 1991 True Colors director, producer
Film 1991 Soapdish executive producer Only film project he did not direct
Film 1993 Undercover Blues director
Film 1995 Boys on the Side director, producer Last film
The film was entered into the 19th Moscow International Film Festival.