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RIP, Paul Mazursky

By Rich Heldenfels Published: July 1, 2014

The director-writer-actor  has died at the age of 84. One obit is here. That obit singles out "An Unmarried Woman" among his efforts, but that's a movie that from first viewing has tended to bring out my class-warfare impulses with its giving characters plenty of time to find themselves and few money worries."Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" is too tidy. But there was other work that deserved admiration.

"Next Stop, Greenwich Village," had well-drawn characters -- indeed, Mazursky's strength lay in his characters -- and Ellen Greene's performance was perfect. The adapted "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" was a high-water mark for most of its cast. You can find it right now on Netflix.

"Harry and Tonto," even with its road-movie plot, is a good portrait of a lot of lost people; check out what Larry Hagman does in it.  Art Carney holds the movie together very well, too -- although I still object to that Best Actor Oscar*. Still, those notes should remind you as well that Mazursky knew how to find good actors and get the right performances out of them most of the time. (Dyan Cannon in "Bob and Carol" is a grating exception.) Mazursky worked occasionally as an actor, and he knew the moves. But, in some cases at least, he was even better as a director.

*Carney was better than Albert Finney in "Murder on the Orient Express." But the other nominees that year were Al Pacino in "The Godfather Party II," Dustin Hoffman in "Lenny" and Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown." Really, Oscars?



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