The studio is the enemy of the artist! – Norman Jewsion talking to Hal Ashby
When they talk about the great filmmakers of the 1970s, names like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet, and Brian DePalma are always mentioned. Yet, none of these artists made as many great or important films within the decade as Hal Ashby (arguably Robert Altman did as many). Ashby’s 70s work included The Landlord, Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound forby’s Glory, Coming Home, and Being There. All these works were made within that one decade. No other filmmaker of the period had as many excellent films within a ten year period.
Hal Ashby was a rebel with a cause. His work was filled with social commentary on racism, The Vietnam War, the ruling class, the military and more. He loved film and filmmaking more than anything else in life. He fought the fight to keep his work untouched by the corporate bad guys. In Amy Scott’S 2018 documentary, “Hal,” reflects the director’s roguish, anarchic and independent artistic nature. Ashby’s first claim to fame was as a film editor mostly working with director and good friend Norman Jewison on films like The Cincinnati Kid, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians are Coming, In the Heat of the Night, for which he won an Oscar, and The Thomas Crown Affair. But what Ashby wanted to do most was direct and he got his opportunity with The Landord, a film far ahead of its time. Sadly, Ashby’s run of excellent work did not extend into the 1980s. Plagued by rumors of cocaine use and fighting with studio heads both his artistic and personal health suffered. Ashby died of cancer in 1988 he was only 59 years old.