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Subject: Archive: Robert Aldrich, Dec. 5, 1983


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Film director ("The Dirty Dozen")
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Date Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 05:23:03pm

December 7, 1983
The New York Times

Robert Aldrich, who scorned his family's banking empire to chronicle a cavalcade of misfits as a film director, died of kidney failure Monday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 65 years old.

Mr. Aldrich depicted hobos and convicts, cowboys and professional wrestlers, dissolute screen stars and criminals-turned-soldiers in such films as ''Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,'' ''The Dirty Dozen'' and ''The Longest Yard.''

''Mr. Aldrich's strength,'' the film critic Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times several years ago, ''is his weakness for the violent and the macabre.'' But another critic in The Times, Bosley Crowther, exemplified the less charitable view of Mr. Aldrich's work when he assailed the ''astonishingly wanton'' violence of ''The Dirty Dozen.''

Mr. Aldrich was sanguine about his reputation. ''When I've got Burt Reynolds in a picture like 'The Longest Yard,' it's hard not to be a little macho,'' he once said. ''I can't think of anything more exciting, though, than making a musical with a lot of lovely ladies. But nobody wants to give me the job.''

Nelson Rockefeller's Cousin

If so, that was a rare defeat for a maverick who made his own career. Mr. Aldrich was born in Cranston, R.I., on Aug. 19, 1918, to a family with roots in colonial America and a cousin named Nelson A. Rockefeller.



But after being educated at the Moses Brown School in Providence, R.I., and the University of Virginia, Mr. Aldrich announced in 1941 that he was heading for Hollywood. ''None of his family believed it,'' Mr. Aldrich's publicist, Jerry Pam, recalled yesterday.

In Hollywood, the scion of a banking fortune started working as a production clerk in the RKO Studio for $25 a week. In time, he assisted such prominent directors as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Jean Renoir, Mr. Pam said.

When Mr. Aldrich began directing his own films, however - beginning with ''Big Leaguer'' in 1953 - he diverged from the artistic bent of his mentors. ''I make pictures audiences will want to see,'' Mr. Aldrich said.

His greatest commercial success was ''The Dirty Dozen,'' the story of 12 jailed felons who are freed to conduct a mission against the Germans in World War II. The film made $15 million within eight weeks of its release in 1967 but its violence also generated controversy, a byproduct common to Mr. Aldrich's work.

Mr. Aldrich also won many plaudits from critics. He was hailed for his realistic view of brutality in the American West in ''Ulzana's Raid'' and for his courage in filming ''Attack!,'' a story of discord among American infantrymen during the Battle of the Bulge.

Mr. Aldrich is survived by his widow, Sibylle, and four children from a previous marriage, Adell, William, Alida and Kelly.

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