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Robert Drew

  • Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio
  • Birthday: February 15
Date of passing: 
July 30, 2014

Obituary

Obituary: 

Robert Drew was a producer and director whose acclaimed documentaries helped to establish cinema vérité as a viable approach to filmmaking. His work, which included the political saga Primary, had a significant influence on other renowed documentarians, including D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles.

Robert Drew was a producer and director whose acclaimed documentaries helped to establish cinema vérité as a viable approach to filmmaking. His work, which included the political saga Primary, had a significant influence on other renowed documentarians, including D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Drew left high school to enlist as a cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. As part of a combat squadron near Naples, Italy, he flew 31 missions before his plane was shot down behind enemy lines on January 31, 1944. Over the next three-and-a-half months, often battling mountainous terrain in norhtern Italy, he succesfully eluded capture and made his way back to his unit to resume fighting.

During his military service, Drew developed an admiration for the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, whose detailed reporting would later influence Drew's filmmaking.

Drew began his career as a journalist. In 1960, while working a photographer and editor with Life magazine, he formed a production company, Drew Associates, to make films. His first effort, Primary, followed Sen. John F. Kennedy and Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey as they campaigned in Wisconsin in their quest to become the Democratic Party's candidate for President of the United States.

Today Primary is considered one of the most important political documentaries ever made, and in 1990 it was entered into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry for historic works.

Much of Drew's work was done with lightweight, handheld cameras that allowed for a more naturalistic approach to storytelling and the ability to capture spontaneous moments instead of staged action. Many other filmmakers adopted the style after seeing how effectively he used it.

A 1963 production, Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment, chronicled the conflict between the Kennedy administration and Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who at the time was resisting a court order to integrate the University of Alabama.

Drew's other films included The Chair, about a death penalty case in Illinois, and 784 Days That Changed America: From Watergate to Resignation, which won a Peabody Award. 

His other professional accolades included an Emmy for Man Who Dances: Edward Villella, about the renowned dancer and choreographer of the title, which aired in 1968 as part of The Bell Telephone Hour. The award was bestowed in the category of Outstanding Cultural Documentary and "Magazine-Type" Program or Series Achievement.

He also made documentaries about such musical artists as Duke Ellington and Simon & Garfunkel.

Drew died July 30, 2014, in Sharon, Connecticut. He was 90.

 

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AWARDS & NOMINATIONS

AWARDS & NOMINATIONS

1 Nomination No Emmys

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