Wisconsin-born, California-raised Michael Ritchie gained early directorial experience as an undergraduate at Harvard, staging the original production of classmate Arthur Kopit's "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad" in 1960. Following graduation he worked in series TV, directing episodes of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Dr. Kildare." Ritchie's first feature, "Downhill Racer" (1969), starring Robert Redford, was noted for its gripping skiing sequences, shot with hand-held 16mm cameras. His third film, "The Candidate" (1972), also starred Redford, and it remains one of the finest cinematic excoriations of the American political system.