Bob Fosse

Roy Scheider in All That Jazz (1979)

Roy Scheider in All That Jazz (1979)

  • Born:  1927
  • Died:  1987
  • Rank:  53
  • Score:  570.70
  • Awards:  Oscar / BAFTA / NBR / numerous Tonys
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars / 2 DGA / BAFTA / 2 Golden Globes
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Best:  All That Jazz
  • Worst:  Sweet Charity

Feature Films (ranked):

  1. All That Jazz – 1979
  2. Cabaret – 1972
  3. Lenny – 1974
  4. Star 80 – 1983
  5. Sweet Charity – 1969

Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1972 – 2nd – Cabaret
  • 1979 – 5th – All That Jazz

There was a stretch in the 70’s, while Scorsese and Spielberg were first getting noticed (and getting Best Picture nominations without Director nominations), where the competition for the foremost director was between Francis Ford Coppola and Bob Fosse.  They were both nominated for Best Director at the Oscars in 1972 (Fosse won), they were both nominated in 1974 (Coppola won) and they were both nominated again in 1979 (Robert Benton won).  But Coppola melted down during Apocalypse Now, his next film was an overwhelming failure and Fosse only made one more film, then had a heart attack and died at the age of 60.  While Coppola has endured and may be making a comeback right now with Tetro, all we have from Fosse’s film career is the 5 films he made during his stretch.  The first and last are both solid films, but the three in the middle are great films and it is those that have placed him in director immortality.

All That Jazz – #5 film of 1979

Do you have to know about Bob Fosse to understand and love this film?  Absolutely not.  What we have on film here is the magnificent portrait of a director who pushes himself too far, between finishing a film and creating his next Broadway musical, who pushes his life to the edge and into something beyond.  We have amazing musical numbers.  We have fantastic editing as we see what it is like behind the scenes in getting a film finished (not just making it, which we see in lots of great films, but getting the film completed and moved to theaters).  We also have an incredible scene of open heart surgery, with the actual team from one of New York’s top hospitals doing the surgery in the film.  And of course, we have the Angel of Death who comes into his life and the unbelievable musical number of “Bye Bye Life”, one of the greatest musical numbers ever put on screen.  It is an amazing movie from start to finish, anchored by easily the best performance Roy Scheider ever put on screen.

Then of course, there is the actual knowledge to go along with it.  When I first saw All That Jazz, I had seen Cabaret, but didn’t know much about Fosse.  I didn’t know he had directed Chicago on stage (didn’t even know what Chicago was), hadn’t seen Lenny, didn’t know that so much of what Scheider goes through in this film was straight from Fosse’s life.  And of course, once you see how much he pushed himself, it’s not a wonder that he died at 60, but that he lived long enough to make 5 films.

It is a shame that Fosse didn’t live to direct more musicals.  Cabaret is a film that I appreciate more every time I see it.  Chicago never would have existed as a musical had Fosse not put so much into it.  And All That Jazz is such an amazing film, as I knew the first time I saw it, from the first moments where “On Broadway” is played by George Benson, straight through to the wonderful Ben Vereen introduction on the “Bye Bye Life” number.

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