Motion Picture Director, Producer, Actor. He directed several noted features from the 1960s through the 1980s. Born to Russian-Jewish immigrants, his father was a former sailor. Following graduation from DeWitt Clinton High School, he attended Elon College in North Carolina on an athletic scholarship and distinguished himself in football and boxing. He was preparing for a career in law at St. John's University, when his friend Elia Kazan convinced him to try Drama. They both became members of New York's Group Theater, with Ritt starting out as an actor. He marked his Broadway debut with "Golden Boy" (1937 to 1938) and went onto perform in roughly a half dozen plays including "Winged Victory" (1943), also appearing in the film version (1944) while serving with the US Army Air Force during World War II. In addition, he directed several stage productions, notably "A View From a Bridge" (1956). Ritt had begun to accumulate a substantial body of TV directing efforts however during the early 1950s, he fell victim to McCarthyism and was blacklisted grinding his career to a halt. During a six-year period, Ritt supported himself by working as a teacher at the Actors Studio where he mentored future stars Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Lee Remick and Rod Steiger. It would be producer David Susskind who helped revive Ritt's career with his first directing feature "Edge of the City" (1957). He directed Paul Newman, Patricia Neal and Melvin Douglas in the Oscar-garnered "Hud" (1963) and followed this with "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" (1965), "The Molly Maguires" (1970), "The Great White Hope" (1970), "Sounder" (1972) and "Conrack" (1974). His directing of the film "The Front" which starred Woody Allen was a thinly-disguised account of his years (in addition to others associated with the picture) while blacklisted. He guided Sally Field through her Academy Award-winning portrayal of "Norma Rae" (1979). Other credits include "Murphy's Romance" (1985), "Nuts" (1987) and "Stanley and Iris" (1989).
Bio by: C.S.