Motion Picture Director, Screenwriter, Producer. Born Robert Rosen to Russian-Jewish immigrants, he was raised in a rough neighborhood in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Following a stint as an amateur boxer, he began acting in stock and later became a playwright and director for the Washington Square Players and the Theatre Guild. When his play "The Body Beautiful" (1936) flopped on Broadway, he accepted an offer to come to Hollywood as a screenwriter. A political idealist in his youth, Rossen belonged to the Communist Party from 1937 to 1945 and his scripts often dealt with the threat of tyranny, economic and social injustice, and the ruthlessness of personal ambition. These include "They Won't Forget" (1937), "The Roaring Twenties" (co-screenplay, 1939), "The Sea Wolf" (1941), "Edge of Darkness" (1943), "A Walk in the Sun" (1945), and "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" (1946). Making his directing debut with "Johnny O'Clock" (1947), Rossen established himself as a major talent with "Body and Soul" (1947), one of the greatest of boxing dramas. Its success enabled him to form his own production company, releasing through Columbia Pictures. "All the King's Men" (1949), his controversial adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's novel, chronicled the brutal rise and fall of a Southern politician, based on Louisiana's Huey Long. It won the Best Picture Academy Award and Rossen received Oscar nominations for his direction and screenplay. His next film, "The Brave Bulls", showed him working very well with more commercial material, an atmospheric study of the life of a toreador. It was completed in 1950 but witheld from release for a year due to the director's investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Called to testify before HUAC in January 1951, Rossen denied present membership in the Communist Party but refused to admit his past affiliations or name fellow members. He was promptly blacklisted by the film industry. After two years of joblessness he requested a new HUAC hearing and in March 1953 he identified himself and 57 colleagues as onetime Communists. Although Rossen was allowed to work again, he never made another film in Hollywood and his actions tormented him for the rest of his life. His subsequent efforts of the 1950s - "Mambo" (1955), "Alexander the Great" (1956), "Island in the Sun" (1957), and "They Came to Cordura" (1959) - were intelligent and interesting yet somehow half-hearted. But he returned to form and regained much of his lost prestige with "The Hustler" (1961), a moody, profound character study of a young pool shark (unforgettably played by Paul Newman), which many consider his masterpiece. Rossen received an Oscar nomination and won the New York Film Critics Award for his direction. "Lillith" (1964), about a psychologist who unwisely falls in love with one of his patients, was a critical and commericial failure at the time but its reputation has steadily improved over the years. "The Hustler" and "Lillith" marked a new phase in Rossen's work, with the focus shifting from social concerns to psychological ones, and which seemed to mirror his troubled personality at the time. Sadly, "Lillith" would be his last film. He died at 57 from heart failure following surgery.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards