Ritchie, Michael: Director Profile (The Candidate, Smile, Bad News Bears)

Michael Ritchie made his mark with a series of satirical films about the uniquely American themes (and myths) of contests and competition, showing their cruel side and obsession with winning.

Ritchie was born November 28, 1938 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but his family later moved to Berkeley, California, where his father was a university professor of experimental psychology, and his mother was the art and music librarian.

He attended Berkeley High School and was accepted at Harvard University. He later said that his academic interest in film culture was the basis and drive for his career.

While at Harvard, Ritchie directed the original production of Arthur Kopit’s play, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ritchie worked on several TV series prior to his making film debut in 1969, Downhill Racer.

In 1994, Ritchie purchased the hacienda-style house (12305 Fifth Helena Drive) in the Brentwood, Los Angeles, where Marilyn Monroe died in 1962. In the same year, he moved to Manhattan with his wife and children.

Ritchie was also the author of Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television, a a chronicle of the experimental period of the television industry from the 1920s through the 1940s.

Ritchie’s screen career spanned 28 years, during which he made 21 motion pictures and some TV movies.  Sharply uneven, it is marked by brilliant beginning, with a stunning debut, Downhill Racer (1969), starring Robert Redford, followed by three excellent movies: The Candidate (1972), also with Redford, Prime Cut (1972), and Smile (1975).

The middle section veers toward broader, more commercial entertaining films, such as The Bad New Bears and Semi-Tough.

He made sort of a comeback with Fletch (1985), starring Saturday Night Live’s alumnae Chevy Chase, though, the sequel, Fletch Lives (1989), was inferior.

His comedic touch benefited from teaming with another grad of SNL,  Eddie Murphy on The Golden Child (1986).

The final chapter of his career is rather weak, especially his swan song, A Simple Wish (1997).

His sister, Elsie Ritchie, acted in two of his films, The Candidate and Smile.

Ritchie’s life was cut short due to untimely death from complications of prostate cancer, on April 16, 2001, age 62.


Downhill Racer (1969)
The Candidate (1972)
Prime Cut (1972)
Smile (1975)
The Bad News Bears (1976)
Semi-Tough (1977)
An Almost Perfect Affair (1979)
The Island (1980)
Divine Madness (1980)
Student Bodies (1981)
The Survivors (1983)
Fletch (1985)
Wildcats (1986)
The Golden Child (1986)
The Couch Trip (1988)
Fletch Lives (1989)
Diggstown (1992)
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993) (TV movie)
Cops & Robbersons (1994)
The Scout (1994)
The Fantasticks (1995)
A Simple Wish (1997)