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Hal Ashby Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (5)  | Trivia (7)  | Personal Quotes (3)

Overview (3)

Born in Ogden, Utah, USA
Died in Malibu, California, USA  (liver and colon cancer)
Birth NameWilliam Hal Ashby

Mini Bio (1)

Hal Ashby was born the fourth and youngest child in a Mormon household, in Ogden, Utah, to Eileen Ireta (Hetzler) and James Thomas Ashby, on September 2, 1929. His father was a dairy farmer. After a rough childhood that included the divorce of his parents, his father's suicide, his dropping out of high school, getting married and divorced all before he was 19, he decided to leave Utah for California. A Californian employment office found him a printing press job at Universal Studios. Within a few years, he was an assistant film editor at various other studios. One of his pals while at MGM was a young messenger named Jack Nicholson. He moved up to being a full fledged editor on The Loved One (1965) and started editing the films of director Norman Jewison.

A highlight of his film editing career was winning an Oscar for the landmark In the Heat of the Night (1967). Itching to become a director, Jewison gave him a script he was too busy to work on called The Landlord (1970). It became Ashby's first film as a director. From there he delivered a series of well-acted, intelligent human scaled dramas that included The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Bound for Glory (1976), Coming Home (1978) and Being There (1979). Great reviews and Oscar nominations became common on Ashby films.

Ashby was always a maverick and a contrary person and success proved difficult for Ashby to handle. He became unreliable due to his dependence on drugs and a reclusive lifestyle. He actually collapsed while making The Rolling Stones concert film Let's Spend the Night Together (1982) in Arizona. Although he recovered, he was never the same after that. He began taking too much time in post production on his films and actually had a couple of his later projects taken away from him to be edited by others. He tried to straighten himself out, but in the 1980s, he was considered by many to be unemployable. Just when he felt he was turning a corner in his life, he developed cancer that spread to his liver and colon. He died on December 27, 1988. Actor Sean Penn dedicated his first film as a director, The Indian Runner (1991) to Ashby and John Cassavetes, even though Penn was never directed by either one. Because he did not have a set visual style, many mistake this for no style at all. His career is not discussed as often as the careers of some of his contemporaries.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: subcity

Spouse (5)

Joan Marshall (21 August 1969 - 1970) ( divorced)
Shirley Stockman (31 July 1963 - 21 March 1968) ( divorced) ( 1 child)
Maloy "Mickey" Joan Bartron (4 August 1956 - 1963) ( divorced)
Maxine Marie Armstrong (25 July 1949 - 1950) ( divorced)
Lavon Compton (1 March 1947 - 10 May 1948) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trivia (7)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985." Pages 69-75. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Directed 10 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Lee Grant, Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, Jack Warden, Jon Voight, Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, Penelope Milford, Melvyn Douglas and Peter Sellers. Grant, Fonda, Voight and Douglas won Oscars for their performances in one of his movies.
Was considered to direct Tootsie (1982).
Is one of four directors who have directed Academy Award-winning performances in all four acting categories. The others being William Wyler, Elia Kazan and Martin Scorsese.
Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Bud Cort, Jon Voight, Shirley MacLaine, and Robert Downey Sr. were among the friends who came to Ashby's home in Malibu as he drew closer to death. Beatty's father had cancer and had been treated at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, and both Beatty and Hoffman were instrumental in convincing the physician-shy Ashby to have surgery there. However, the cancer had spread too far by then and at his request, Ashby was taken back to Malibu to die at home. His main caregiver in his last days was girlfriend Lynn Griffis, a blonde model from Alabama whom he had met after she had sent him a fan letter. She was relieved for a much-needed rest on the Christmas Eve before his death by Ashby's last ex-wife, actress Joan Marshall. He had a large bed that had been featured in his film Being There, and the bed was big enough to allow friends to sit comfortably. In his final weeks, at times he would have several of them to each massage and caress a different body part gently, which was the only relief he got from the terrible pain he was suffering, since even morphine would not ease his pain.
He has directed two films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Harold and Maude (1971) and Being There (1979). He has also edited one film that is in the registry: In the Heat of the Night (1967).
After the release of "Harold and Maude" in 1971, Ashby was approached to direct the film versions of both "Hair", and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".

Personal Quotes (3)

I was born in Ogden, Utah, the last of four children. Mom and Dad divorced when I was five or six. Dad killed himself when I was 12. I struggled toward growing up, like others, totally confused. Married and divorced twice before I made it to 21. Hitchhiked to Los Angeles when I was 17. Had about 50 or 60 jobs up to the time I was working as a Multilith operator at good old Republic Studios.
I don't like to tell lies.
I basically have a very positive philosophy of life, because I don't feel I have anything to lose. Most things are going to turn out okay.

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