HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 20, 2001 – One of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, Stanley Kramer, died on Monday, battling pneumonia. He was 87.
A socially conscious director (a label he hated), Kramer made such classics as “The Defiant Ones” (1958), starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as escaped convicts; the moving if depressing ode to nuclear holocaust “On the Beach” (1959), starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner; and two of the most powerful courtroom dramas ever made — “Inherit The Wind” (1960) about the famed “Monkey” trials on teaching evolution in schools and “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961) about the Nazi war criminal trials.
Kramer was also one of the first independent producers, working outside the studio system and raising financing himself. He produced such films as “High Noon” (1952) starring Gary Cooper and “The Wild One” (1954) starring Marlon Brando.
Born Stanley Earl Kramer on Sept. 29, 1913, in Hell’s Kitchen, his formative years took place during the Great Depression, and he saw the New Deal reforms put into action to get America back on its feet.
“That all probably had as profound an influence on me as any event on which I can base the things I believe in: my attitudes regarding the blacks; the freedom of teachers; world guilt and sectarian prejudice,” he said in a 1985 interview.
“I never became any kind of evangelist because of those beliefs, but I tried to translate the drama of them into film.”
Even though many of his films won Academy Awards, the gold statuette eluded him despite nine nominations. He retired from the business in 1979, taught at the University of Washington and wrote a column for the Seattle Times. But the lure of Hollywood was great, and he moved back with his family, developing several projects, none of which were made.
His wife, Karen Sharpe Kramer, told Reuters that her husband of 35 years died “quietly and peacefully, as we all hope we may do.” She also added, “He was as wonderful a husband as he was a filmmaker.”