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Sydney Pollack, 1934-2008

Sydney Pollack, director, producer and surprisingly effective character actor, was one of a handful of filmmakers who emerged in the early days of television drama and graduated to a successful career in feature films, establishing himself in the late '60s and '70s as the director-of-choice for some of the most prominent movie stars of the New Hollywood.

Pollack was an understated auteur, and the best of his 20 features walked a careful balance between popular taste and his own liberal concerns. His close association with stars like Burt Lancaster, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda made him a rarity in the film industry, an A-list director who seems to have never accepted a project strictly for a paycheck. His last film, "Searching for Frank Gehry," was his sole attempt at a documentary and benefited from his own lack of experience in that field.

Pollack directed many commercial and critical successes - "Three Days of the Condor," "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," "Out of Africa," "The Firm," "Jeremiah Johnson," "The Way We Were" - but I suspect that he will be most remembered for 1982's "Tootsie," a brilliantly sustained comedy about show business and role-playing. Here's a clip featuring Pollack as Dustin Hoffman's agent in the film:

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