Biography

Robert Aldrich was an American film director, writer and producer, notable for such films as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), The Big Knife (1955), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), The Dirty Dozen (1967).

Born in Cranston, Rhode Island, the son of Lora Lawson and newspaper publisher Edward Burgess Aldrich. He was a grandson of U.S. Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and a cousin of Nelson Rockefeller. He studied economics at the University of Virginia. In 1941, he dropped out of college for a $50-a-week job at RKO Radio Pictures. In doing so, he was also dropped by his family, losing a potential stake in Chase Bank he would have inherited. It's been said that "No American film director was born as wealthy as Aldrich—and then so thoroughly cut off from family money."

He quickly rose in film production as an assistant director, and worked with Jean Renoir, Abraham Polonsky, Robert Rossen, Joseph Losey and Charlie Chaplin as an assistant on Limelight. He became a television director in the 1950s, directing his first feature film, Big Leaguer, in 1953. During the 1950s, Aldrich directed mostly action films like Apache and Vera Cruz with Burt Lancaster. Aldrich soon gained recognition as an auteur filmmaker, depicting his liberal humanist thematic vision in many genres, in films such as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), a film noir classic, The Big Knife (1955), an adaptation of Clifford Odets's play about Hollywood business, and Attack (1956), a WWII infantry combat film exploring how U.S. Army careerism determined who attacked and who ordered the attack.

In the 1960s, he directed several commercially successful films, such as the gothic horror stories What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as spiteful sisters and faded child-actresses, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, with Bette Davis as a Southern woman who lives in a mansion and thinks she is going insane (both Joan Crawford and Davis were to appear, but Crawford left the film); the controversial The Killing of Sister George (1968); and the hugely popular war film The Dirty Dozen (1967).

The success of The Dirty Dozen allowed him to establish his own production studio for some time, but several failures forced his return to conventionally commercial Hollywood films. Nevertheless, his humanism is evident in The Longest Yard (1974), about the rigged-game politics, and Ulzana's Raid (1972) an uncompromising film based on the real life break-out from an Indian reservation of a band led by chief Ulzana, the extreme violence and torture they exacted upon isolated pioneer families in the Arizona territory, and their pursuit by the US cavalry.

From his marriage to Harriet Foster (1941–65), Robert Aldrich had four children, all of whom work in the film business: Adell, William, Alida and Kelly. Aldrich died of kidney failure on December 5, 1983 in a Los Angeles hospital. Film critic John Patterson summarized his career in 2012: "He was a punchy, caustic, macho and pessimistic director, who depicted corruption and evil unflinchingly, and pushed limits on violence throughout his career. His aggressive and pugnacious film-making style, often crass and crude, but never less than utterly vital and alive, warrants – and will richly reward – your immediate attention."

Robert Aldrich was an American film director, writer and producer, notable for such films as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), The Big Knife (1955), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), The Dirty Dozen (1967).

Born in Cranston, Rhode Island, the son of Lora Lawson and newspaper publisher Edward Burgess Aldrich. He was a grandson of U.S. Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and a cousin of Nelson Rockefeller. He studied economics at the University of Virginia. In 1941, he dropped out of college for a $50-a-week job at RKO Radio Pictures. In doing so, he was also dropped by his family, losing a potential stake in Chase Bank he would have inherited. It's been said that "No American film director was born as wealthy as Aldrich—and then so thoroughly cut off from family money."

He quickly rose in film production as an assistant director, and worked with Jean Renoir, Abraham Polonsky, Robert Rossen, Joseph Losey and Charlie Chaplin as an assistant on Limelight. He became a television director in the 1950s, directing his first feature film, Big Leaguer, in 1953. During the 1950s, Aldrich directed mostly action films like Apache and Vera Cruz with Burt Lancaster. Aldrich soon gained recognition as an auteur filmmaker, depicting his liberal humanist thematic vision in many genres, in films such as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), a film noir classic, The Big Knife (1955), an adaptation of Clifford Odets's play about Hollywood business, and Attack (1956), a WWII infantry combat film exploring how U.S. Army careerism determined who attacked and who ordered the attack.

In the 1960s, he directed several commercially successful films, such as the gothic horror stories What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as spiteful sisters and faded child-actresses, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, with Bette Davis as a Southern woman who lives in a mansion and thinks she is going insane (both Joan Crawford and Davis were to appear, but Crawford left the film); the controversial The Killing of Sister George (1968); and the hugely popular war film The Dirty Dozen (1967).

The success of The Dirty Dozen allowed him to establish his own production studio for some time, but several failures forced his return to conventionally commercial Hollywood films. Nevertheless, his humanism is evident in The Longest Yard (1974), about the rigged-game politics, and Ulzana's Raid (1972) an uncompromising film based on the real life break-out from an Indian reservation of a band led by chief Ulzana, the extreme violence and torture they exacted upon isolated pioneer families in the Arizona territory, and their pursuit by the US cavalry.

From his marriage to Harriet Foster (1941–65), Robert Aldrich had four children, all of whom work in the film business: Adell, William, Alida and Kelly. Aldrich died of kidney failure on December 5, 1983 in a Los Angeles hospital. Film critic John Patterson summarized his career in 2012: "He was a punchy, caustic, macho and pessimistic director, who depicted corruption and evil unflinchingly, and pushed limits on violence throughout his career. His aggressive and pugnacious film-making style, often crass and crude, but never less than utterly vital and alive, warrants – and will richly reward – your immediate attention."

Personal Info

Known For Directing

Gender Male

Known Credits 45

Birthday 1918-08-09

Day of Death 1983-12-05

Place of Birth Cranston, Rhode Island, USA

Official Site -

Also Known As

  • Robert Burgess Aldrich

Directing TV ShowsMovies

1981 ...All the Marbles Director
1979 The Frisco Kid Director
1977 The Choirboys Director
1977 Twilight's Last Gleaming Director
1975 Hustle Director
1974 The Longest Yard Director
1973 Emperor of the North Director
1972 Ulzana's Raid Director
1971 The Grissom Gang Director
1970 Too Late the Hero Director
1968 The Killing of Sister George Director
1968 The Legend of Lylah Clare Director
1967 The Dirty Dozen Director
1965 The Flight of the Phoenix Director
1964 Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Director
1963 4 for Texas Director
1962 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Director
1962 Sodom and Gomorrah Director
1961 The Last Sunset Director
1959 Adventures in Paradise (2 episodes)Director
1959 Hotel de Paree (1 episode)Director
1959 The Angry Hills Director
1959 Ten Seconds to Hell Director
1957 The Garment Jungle Director
1956 Attack Director
1956 Autumn Leaves Director
1955 The Big Knife Director
1955 Kiss Me Deadly Director
1954 Vera Cruz Director
1954 Apache Director
1954 World for Ransom Director
1953 Big Leaguer Director
1952 Limelight Assistant Director
1952 Four Star Playhouse (2 episodes)Director
1952 China Smith (2 episodes)Director
1951 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1 episode)Director
1951 The Prowler Assistant Director
1951 M Assistant Director
1948 No Minor Vices Assistant Director
1947 Body and Soul Assistant Director
1945 Pardon My Past Assistant Director

Production

1975 Hustle Producer
1971 The Grissom Gang Producer
1970 Too Late the Hero Producer
1969 What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? Producer
1968 The Killing of Sister George Producer
1968 The Legend of Lylah Clare Producer
1965 The Flight of the Phoenix Producer
1964 Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Producer
1963 4 for Texas Producer
1962 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Producer
1957 The Ride Back Producer
1956 Attack Producer
1955 The Big Knife Producer
1955 Kiss Me Deadly Producer
1954 World for Ransom Producer

Writing

1970 Too Late the Hero Story Screenplay
1963 4 for Texas Screenplay
1959 Ten Seconds to Hell Screenplay

Acting

1967 Operation Dirty Dozen as Himself
1951 The Big Night as Ringsider at Fight (uncredited)

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