John Frankenheimer

 
"Born on Feb. 19, 1930 in Malba, NY, Frankenheimer was raised by his father, Walter, a stock broker of German-Jewish origins, and his Irish-Catholic mother, Helen. Though he was introverted and socially awkward as a youth - his father sent him to a psychological institute to be tested when he was 17 - Frankenheimer was an excellent student, performing well at LaSalle Military Academy, where he was captain of the tennis team. He next attended Williams College in Massachusetts, where he earned a bachelor's in literature. During his last two years at Williams, he discovered acting and spent his summer vacations performing summer stock at the Highland Playhouse in Falmouth, MA. Following his graduation in 1951, Frankenheimer joined the Air Force and served in its newly formed film squadron, where he directed service films during the Korean War. Having found his life's ambition, Frankenheimer left his Air Force film unit and talked his way into an assistant director's job at CBS, where he spent the next several years establishing himself as one of the most brilliant talents to emerge from television's vaunted Golden Age.
 

Frankenheimer helmed more than 150 live dramas between 1954 and 1960, with such prestigious contributions as "The Last Tycoon," starring Jack Palance; "For Whom the Bell Tolls," with Jason Robards, Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach; the original "Days of Wine and Roses," starring Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie; "The Turn of the Screw," with Ingrid Bergman; and "The Browning Version," which featured Sir John Gielgud's first television appearance. He soon made a seamless transition to feature films with "The Young Stranger" (1957) ... [and]  "The Young Savages" (1961) ...  The film marked Frankenheimer's permanent move into features while inaugurating a collaboration with Lancaster that spanned five films ... Frankenheimer and Lancaster next joined forces on "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962) ... the movie earned four Academy Award nominations, including one for Lancaster's performance. Frankenheimer followed with what became his seminal film, "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) ... Both chilling and brilliant, the Cold War thriller earned Lansbury an Academy Award nomination while giving Frankenheimer a place in cinema history for directing a true Hollywood classic.

... Frankenheimer followed with another taut Cold War thriller, "Seven Days in May" (1964), which starred Burt Lancaster ... [then] "The Train" (1965) ... Now in demand as an action director, Frankenheimer went on to helm "Grand Prix" (1966) ...  things began to unravel for Frankenheimer in June 1968 when his close relationship with Robert F. Kennedy ended in tragedy. At the time, he was serving as Kennedy's media advisor ... In a last minute change of plans, Frankenheimer drove Kennedy to the Ambassador Hotel in downtown L.A., where the presidential hopeful was gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan. The tragic event plunged Frankenheimer into a deep depression which was exacerbated by an already growing problem with alcohol. Practically overnight, the seeds to the wunderkind's destruction were sown. ... He continued making films like "The Fixer" (1968), "The Gypsy Moths" (1969), "The Horsemen 1971) ... Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh" (1973), the  "French Connection II" (1975) ... "Black Sunday" (1977) ... what followed was almost two decades of mediocrity that seemed unlikely to have come from the man who had directed "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Seven Days in May."

... Frankenheimer slipped into obscurity while also suffering from a debilitating addiction to alcohol that nearly caused cirrhosis of the liver. While he managed to quit alcohol in the early 1980s, the director was unable to pull himself out his career doldrums ... Frankenheimer went back to television ... [and]  helmed the made-for-cable movie "Against the Wall" (HBO, 1994) ... [which]  finally provided Frankenheimer with the best material he had seen in decades. Although he had received five Emmy nominations for his directing live television early in his career, "Against the Wall" earned him his first statue for Outstanding Directing. With renewed career vigor, Frankenheimer found new life on the small screen, directing "The Burning Season" (HBO 1994) ... which earned him a second straight Emmy Award for directing. He found himself in the winner's circle at the Emmys again for "Andersonville" (TNT, 1996) ...  Frankenheimer won his fourth directing Emmy in five years with "George Wallace" (1997).

... Because of his resurgence on television, Frankenheimer was given the opportunity to redeem himself on the big screen [with]  ... "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1996) ...  He next directed "Ronin" (1998), a triumphant return to the big screen that ultimately proved to be his last truly great film ...  The man who had redefined the suspense film with "The Manchurian Candidate" and who had refused to give up his quest for the elusive big-budget picture, had finally weighed in with a movie that displayed his mastery of the medium ... Frankenheimer took a step back with his next feature, "Reindeer Games" (2000) [which] ... proved to be a temporary misstep, as Frankenheimer returned to the small screen for "Path to War" (HBO, 2002) [which] ... earned vast critical praise and several award nominations, including one for another Emmy ...  Just two months after the movie aired on HBO, the director suffered a sudden and debilitating stroke following spinal surgery that ended his life. At the time, Frankenheimer was scheduled to direct the prequel to "The Exorcist" (1973). He was 72."