Paul Mazursky died Monday of cardiac arrest while at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Mazurksky directed or wrote “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice,” “An Unmarried Woman,” "Harry and Tonto,” Moscow on the Hudson” and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and a dozen others. He was nominated for Oscars four times as a screenwriter, never as a director. A keen observer of Los Angeles in his movies, Mazursky was for years a fixture hanging with his pals in the courtyard at Farmers Market.
From Richard Natale's obit in Variety:
While he made his most significant films as a director several decades ago, he returned to acting on TV in later years, playing Norm on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and appearing on “The Sopranos” and on ABC drama “Once and Again” as Sela Ward’s father.
Mazursky captured the spirit of the late ’60s and the ’70s, when the American moral climate was turned on its head. His films entertainingly and humanistically explored such weighty issues as marital fidelity, the merits of psychological therapy and modern divorce: “Bob and Ted,” starring Robert Culp and Natalie Wood as a “liberated” married couple; “Blume in Love,” starring George Segal and Susan Anspach and focusing on the nature of romantic commitment; “Harry and Tonto,” starring Art Carney and focusing on the modern family and approaching old age; the more personal “Next Stop, Greenwich Village”; and his most popular film, “An Unmarried Woman,” with Jill Clayburgh and Alan Bates, about divorce in the feminist era.
“No screenwriter has probed so deep under the pampered skin of this fascinating, maligned decade,” wrote critic Richard Corliss of Mazursky at the end of the ’70s.
Writer Adam Baer posted a nice piece today at Glass Shallot about the day he went to interview Mazursky for the first time and they bonded over cancer. Excerpt:
Next, Mazursky asked me about my background. He wanted to know everything. He'd said that he'd read something about me, something about cancer that his assistant had showed him. He told me very funny stories about the author Issac Singer. Oh, and did I have cancer?
I said that it was hard to answer that question: Does anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer ever stop having it?
"My daughter," he said. "My daughter--"
Silence. Then tears.
Mazursky broke down in front of me. He bawled. His daughter also had a tumor, he'd said. She'd just been flown to a top hospital near us. He didn't know what to do. He was looking into "the guy who worked on Ted Kennedy at Duke."
Did I have suggestions, connections? What could they do?
The phone rang. Mazursky answered, gestured at me to stay.