In a 1987 article in The New Republic, critic Stanley Kaufman wrote that Martin Ritt "is one of the most underrated American directors, superbly competent and quietly imaginative. " While his films generally revolved around moral themes and he did not develop a particular visual style, Ritt became noted as a superlative craftsman with a particular affinity for actors, stemming no doubt from his own long and distinguished performing career. Indeed, he guided a baker's dozen of performers to Oscar nominations with three (Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas in "Hud" 1963 and Sally Field in "Norma Rae" 1979) taking home the statue. Born and raised in NYC, Ritt had originally considered a career in law until he was persuaded by Elia Kazan to work with the Group Theater. His Broadway debut was in the Group's production of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy," on which he also served as assistant stage manager and understudy to lead John Garfield. Over the next five years, Ritt worked steadily with them until he was called for military service in the US Army Air Force Special Forces during WWII. Utilizing his theatrical background, he appeared with the landmark stage production "Winged Victory" and made his feature acting debut in the 1944 film version of that play. After his discharge, Ritt made the move to directing with 1946's "Mr. Peebles and Mr. Hooker" at NYC's Music Box Theatre.