Mulligan, Robert: Director

Robert Mulligan is the recipient of the 2006 Career Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), of which I am a member and a former two-time president.

Mulligan was born on August 23, 1925, in the Bronx, New York. The son of a New York City policeman, he intended to become a priest, but his theological studies were interrupted by WW II service as a radio operator with the Marines.

Returning to civilian life, Mulligan worked as a copyboy at the New York Times, studied radio communications at Fordham University, and then joined CBS as a messenger. He quickly advanced in the ranks and during the 1950s gained recognition as one of the leading directors of quality TV drama.

In 1957, Mulligan piloted his first feature, Fear Strikes Out, an intimate and disturbing account of baseball star Jimmy Piersall’s bout with mental illness. On this and most of his other films of the 1960s, Mulligan teamed up with producer Alan J. Pakula.

In 1962, Mulligan was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a seminal film about racism and justice in the South, set in the Depression era, based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Arguably his best-known work, “To Kill a Mockingbird” features Robert Duvall’s first screen role. That picture was also nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and fetched awards for Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction. (See Review).

However, the big winner in 1962 was David Lean’s historical epic, “Lawrence of Arabia,” which swept most of the Oscars. (See Oscar Alert)

Mulligan’s work has fluctuated between slickly entertaining films, with no apparent personal imprint or point of view, and intimate dramas characterized by discreet handling and careful attention to characterization.

Among his other noteworthy pictures are two Steve McQueen vehicles, “Love With the Proper Stranger” (1963) and “Baby the Rain Must Fall” (1965), “Inside Daisy Clover” (1966), “The Stalking Moon (1968), and particularly “The Man in the Moon,” featuring a career-making turn from the young Reese Witherspoon.

Mulligan has been married since 1952 to former actress Jane Lee Sutherland.