Gene Saks

Director, Actor
While primarily noted as a director of stage and screen, Gene Saks actually began his career as an actor. Trained at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (which was a precursor of the Actors ... Read more »
Born: 11/08/1921 in New York City, New York, USA

Filmography

Actor (14)

Law & Order 1997 - 1998 (Tv Show)

Actor

Broadway '97: Launching the Tonys 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Deconstructing Harry 1997 (Movie)

Harry's Father (Actor)

I.Q. 1994 (Movie)

Boris Podolsky (Actor)

Nobody's Fool 1994 (Movie)

Wirf (Actor)

Funny 1989 (Movie)

Director (Actor)

Neil Simon: Not Just For Laughs 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

The Goodbye People 1984 (Movie)

Marcus Soloway (Actor)

Love, Sex... And Marriage 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Actor

Lovesick 1983 (Movie)

Frantic Patient (Actor)

The One and Only 1977 (Movie)

Sidney Seltzer (Actor)

The Prisoner of Second Avenue 1974 (Movie)

Harry (Actor)

A Thousand Clowns 1964 (Movie)

Leo (Actor)

On Seventh Avenue (TV Show)

Actor
Director (8)

A Fine Romance 1992 (Movie)

(Director)

Brighton Beach Memoirs 1986 (Movie)

(Director)

Mame 1974 (Movie)

(Director)

Last of the Red Hot Lovers 1972 (Movie)

(Director)

Cactus Flower 1969 (Movie)

(Director)

The Odd Couple 1968 (Movie)

(Director)

Barefoot in the Park 1967 (Movie)

(Director)

Bye Bye Birdie (TV Show)

Director

Biography

While primarily noted as a director of stage and screen, Gene Saks actually began his career as an actor. Trained at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (which was a precursor of the Actors Studio), he was a co-founder of an acting troupe in the late 1940s. Saks made his stage debut with the company in "Juno and the Paycock" in 1947 and he went on to spend the next decade and a half in a number of plays and one musical, "South Pacific". By the early 60s, he had begun his directing career with Carl Reiner's play "Enter Laughing" (1963) and went on to excel in staging comedies and musicals, including "Mame" (1966), which made a Broadway musical star of Angela Lansbury and also featured Saks' then-wife Beatrice Arthur, Bernard Slade's romantic comedy "Same Time, Next Year" (1975) with Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin as illicit lovers who tryst on an annual basis and the Cy Coleman musical "I Love My Wife" (1977). But Saks was perhaps best recalled for his long stage association with Neil Simon. The director helped shaped Simon's award-winning autobiographical trilogy ("Brighton Beach Memoirs" 1983, "Biloxi Blues" 1985, and "Broadway Bound" 1986) and guided a number of performances to what many critics felt were the performances of their careers. Among the latter were Matthew Broderick in "Brighton Beach Memoirs", Barry Miller in "Biloxi Blues" and Linda Lavin in "Broadway Bound". Additionally, Saks was the director of Simon's farcical "Rumors" (1988) and the playwright's Pulitzer-winning "Lost in Yonkers" (1991). A dispute over the direction of the 1993 stage musical based on "The Goodbye Girl" led to a temporary rift between Saks and Simon.On the big screen, Saks was both actor and director. In the former capacity, he was featured in films adapted from two Herb Gardner plays, "A Thousand Clowns" (1965) and "The Goodbye People" (1984) as well as one based on Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1974). In 1994, he had two prominent supporting roles as Paul Newman's lawyer friend in "Nobody's Fool" and as a colleague of Walter Matthau's Albert Einstein in "I.Q." Under Saks' direction, Robert Redford in "Barefoot in the Park" (1967) first demonstrated his easy charm and comedic abilities while Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau seemed near-perfect as Felix and Oscar in "The Odd Couple" (1968). Goldie Hawn earned an Oscar for her performance as the giddy object of affections for a dentist (Matthau) in the romantic comedy "Cactus Flower" (1969). One prominent misfire was the big screen version of "Mame" (1974) which featured a miscast Lucille Ball in the title role and Beatrice Arthur and Jane Connell reprising their stage roles. Following the European love story "A Fine Romance" (1992) starring Julie Andrews and Marcello Mastroianni, Saks' final directing credit came with a TV adaptation of the early '60s Broadway hit "Bye Bye Birdie" (ABC 1995), starring Jason Alexander and Vanessa Williams and hewing closer to the original script than the 1963 film had. Saks made his big-screen farewell with a supporting role in Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) as the title character's father. Gene Saks died of pneumonia at his East Hampton, New York home on March 28, 2015. He was 93.

Relationships

Morris J Saks

Father

Beatrix Saks

Mother

Bea Arthur Actor

Wife
Married May 28, 1950 Divorced June 27, 1978

Beatrice Arthur

Wife
directed her on stage in "Mame" and "A Mother's Kisses" married May 28, 1950 divorced

Daniel Saks

Son
mother, Beatrice Arthur

Matthew Saks

Son
mother, Beatrice Arthur

EDUCATION

Actors Studio

New York , New York
studied under Lee Strasberg

Cornell University

Ithaca , New York 1943
(AB)

Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research

New York , New York
classmates included Walter Matthau

Milestones

1997

Played supporting role in "Deconstructing Harry"

1997

Directed Christopher Plummer in the one-man show "Barrymore"

1996

Co-starred in the NBC TV-movie "On Seventh Avenue"

1995

Directed the TV adaptation of "Bye Bye Birdie" (ABC)

1994

Had supporting role in the films "Nobody's Fool" and "I.Q."

1993

Fired from pre-Broadway tryout of Simon's musical "The Goodbye Girl" in Chicago

1991

Staged Simon's Pulitzer-winning "Lost in Yonkers"

1984

Acted in Herb Gardner's feature adaptation of "The Goodbye People"

1983

Directed and acted in the ABC special "Love, Sex, and Marriage"

1974

Helmed the film version of "Mame", starring Lucille Ball

1974

Had supporting role in the film version of Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue"

1970

First stage acting appearance in nearly ten years, "The Goodbye People" at Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, MA

1968

Helmed the film comedy "Cactus Flower", starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn in her Oscar-winning role

1967

Film directorial debut "Barefoot in the Park"; also first collaboration with Neil Simon

1966

Won critical praise for staging the musical "Mame"

1965

Film acting debut, "A Thousand Clowns"

1963

Began directing on Broadway with "Enter Laughing"

1947

New York stage debut as actor, "Juno and the Paycock" off-Broadway

Formed co-operative acting troupe at Cherry Lane Theatre in late 1940s

Was director of the trilogy of Simon's semi-autobiographical plays, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983), "Broadway Bound" (1985) and "Biloxi Blues" (1988)

Bonus Trivia

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He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame (1991)

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