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Robert Mulligan 1925 - 2008.

Beaks here... If all Robert Mulligan did was not screw up the most important literary adaptation of the twentieth century, that would be enough. But he did more than that. His film of Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a classic in its own right: faithful without being slavish, emotional without being mawkish, and, most importantly, virtuous without being preachy. And while it is, in many ways, a shared triumph (with Gregory Peck, Elmer Bernstein and main title designer Stephen Frankfurt), Mulligan's direction of first-time actor Mary Badham is miraculous. Her Scout remains one of the most believable (i.e. least affected) child performances in film history. But Mulligan was good with actors of any age. His first film, FEAR STRIKES OUT, features a terrific turn by Anthony Perkins as the mentally fragile baseball player Jimmy Piersall (easily Mulligan's second best picture). There were also two interesting efforts with Steve McQueen: LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER and the underrated, Horton Foote-scripted BABY, THE RAIN MUST FALL. Though the quality of the work tailed off in the '70s and '80s, Mulligan did return to form in 1991 with THE MAN IN THE MOON, a coming-of-age drama most notable for introducing audiences to Reese Witherspoon. Between 1957 and 1968, Mulligan mostly worked with producer Alan J. Pakula, who later went on to carve out a very distinctive directorial career of his own. Both men were born and raised in The Bronx. Must-See Mulligan movies: FEAR STRIKES OUT THE GREAT IMPOSTOR TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE THE MAN IN THE MOON

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:01 p.m. CST


    by Galactic

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:02 p.m. CST

    rest in peace

    by BatPsycho

    great films to be remembered for

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:02 p.m. CST

    2008-the year old people died.

    by Galactic

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:10 p.m. CST

    If you want a couple of hours alone with this man

    by seppukudkurosawa

    and Alan J. Pakula, all you've got to do is give the To Kill a Mockingbird commentary a whirl. Despite what Spielberg might think, commentaries are one of the best things to happen to film fanatics in the last 20 years- and this document of a great man surviving only goes to show why. RIP it up and start it again, Rob!

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:11 p.m. CST

    rest in peace

    by Stickman83

    I'm actually watching To Kill a Mockingbird on TCM right now (in Chile, different TV scheduling). One of the greatest movies I've ever seen.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:23 p.m. CST

    Ey Stickman83

    by Gilkuliehe

    You're right, it's on! Excellent movie. And I'm here too... No disrespect to the man, but ¡buena loco!

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:23 p.m. CST

    Mr Beaks

    by Noddy93

    thank you for finally posting an RIP @ aicn sans hyperbole.<br><br> to the point and warranted words.<br><br> Mulligan was a master not given his due.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 9:55 p.m. CST

    Hello?? Summer Of '42!! The Other!!

    by Rebeck2

    How could you leave these great movies out? Definitely Must-See, both of them. This guy was a great talent. I meant to write him a fan letter...guess I waited too long. RIP Mr. Mulligan.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 10:03 p.m. CST

    I think my post was deleted and I am not

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    being racist, just pointing out a fact. To Kill A Mockingbird would not be made today. Spike Lee thinks only blacks in his movies can say nigger. Same thing goes for Blazing Saddles. It's the same way people try to ban Twain. He shows the words people used at the time. He didn't condone it.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 10:29 p.m. CST

    You're Not Being Racist, Binks

    by mrbeaks

    You're being an imbecile. Or a troll. Either way, you're not long for AICN if you persist in making this baseless and idiotic assertion (e.g. go see GRAN TORINO if you're hot to see an accomplished white filmmaker dealing with race in an amusingly unvarnished manner).<br><br>This is not an invitation to a dialogue.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 10:30 p.m. CST

    Beaks, ya forgot to mention

    by cinemaniac

    "The Other", based on the Tom Tryon book. Creeped the shit outta me as a kid. One helluva classy piece of American gothic horror.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 10:37 p.m. CST

    Why no obit for Majel Barrett?

    by The Dude Abides

    Or have I just missed it.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 10:58 p.m. CST

    Too bad Mulligan couldn't have lived long enough...

    by Nasty In The Pasty direct Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 11:11 p.m. CST


    by 24200124

    "To Kill a Mockingbird" is always in my top five films of all time, and I'm sad that the director of the movie is gone. What a great legacy to leave behind, you know? I just watched it for the fourth time this year a few days ago...

  • Dec. 21, 2008, 11:50 p.m. CST

    nice obit

    by LoneGun

    I've only seen the first and last films mentioned in the post, but they both made a strong impression on me. I have THE MAN iN THE MOON dvd on my shelf, utterly heartbreaking film and very, very good. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD was simply unforgettable. But it's time for me to have another look at that one, as well as the other Mulligan flicks noted in the post. Rest in peace, Robert Mulligan. And thank you for your remarkable contribution to cinema.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 12:03 a.m. CST

    that's too bad

    by Bloo

    brillant filmmaker and it's sad to see another one leave us this month alone<P>and beaks, I didn't see Grammatron's post, but he's been aroudn this site for a long time, and I don't know if you're having a bad day or what but seriously dude, he may be right, do you think any major studio would be willing to take the risk of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for fear of the backlash that MIGHT happen?

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 12:37 a.m. CST


    by disfigurehead

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 12:45 a.m. CST


    by Darth Thoth

    What an important filmmaker. I will always cherish TKAM. Thank you Mr. Mulligan for making a film that certainly had a monumental impact on my life. And thanks for the classy obit Beaks and for regulating the talkback as well. Peace.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 12:51 a.m. CST

    The Stalking Moon is Underrated

    by Wonderthump

    Mulligan reteams with Gregory Peck, who plays a retiring army scout drawn into a life-and-death struggle with an Apache warrior out to kill his white woman and take their son from her. Robert Forster is great as a half-white ("half breed") fellow scout who is like a son to Peck. Plotted more as a thriller than an action film, it nonetheless has some good fight sequences and a very atmospheric score.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 1:16 a.m. CST

    If nothing else...

    by AnnoyYou

    ...Mulligan did give us one of the greatest book-to-film adaptations ever. And for the record, I think he got pretty great performances out of child actors Phillip Alford and John Megna (as a fictional version of Truman Capote), too. Mr. Mulligan had a great run...

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 1:21 a.m. CST

    I've never seen To Kill A Mocking Bird

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    Nor have I read the book (something I really should remedy), but this news is no less sad to me. I'm aware of the classic status of such a movie, and it's always sad to lose an artist. RIP Robert Mulligan.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 1:23 a.m. CST

    "Up the Down Staircase" is a remarkable film

    by beamish13

    Probably one of the best films about New York in its prime, with an excellent performance from Sandy Dennis. Put it at the top of your Netflix queue.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 1:39 a.m. CST

    I bet he wishes he could take a Mulligan.

    by Jumping Windows

    Isn't this that banana faced dude that starred in a sitcom with that chick with a dick, Kristy MacNichol. I think she got beat out by Ralph Macchio in the role for Johnny in the Outsiders, so she had to go back to TV. At least she will forever have the role of real-life Peppermint Patty. Oh, sorry Mulliganz, we hardly knew ya.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 2:19 a.m. CST

    the other was also faithfully reproduced for the screen

    by bacci40

    nothing better than a director who respects the source material...although, it should be noted that only part of to kill a mockingbird was put on screen...but in no way did it diminish either the film, nor the book...i cant believe that there are people on here who have never read the novel...i thought it was still on all hs reading lists...i will not watch the academy awards this year, because of the rip scroll, which has too many on it just to show their pics...we have lost too many giants this year...and the world is diminished

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 7:30 a.m. CST

    Man, Beaks is in a seriously bad mood

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    I mean come on remember when Spike Lee went after Quentin Tarrantino for using the word nigger. I love To Kill a Mockingbird, both the book, and the movie. It's a rare case where the movie not only does the book justice, but is remembered as being just as good. It's hard to believe people used to actually act that way. And, when we see little Scout use the word nigger, not to be racist, but in a childlike question asking way it makes you wonder how people could act like that or teach their kids to act like that. Beaks doesn't want to talk, fine, I was speaking to the whole group anyway, as if Beaks opinion will hurt my feelings or something. My point is in a society where some guy gets upset over the word "black whole" used in it proper context a movie like this would probably not be made. Clint got a pass because he's Clint. Everyone knows he's no racist. If Joe Blow unknown scriptwriter would propose a movie like this it is unlikely it would be made. I guess if I say motherfucker fuck you fuck fuck fuck all day in posts that's okay, but try to point out an issue and some people to quote Nicholson "can't handle the truth."

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 7:32 a.m. CST


    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    The book is one of the few assigned to me in high school that I not only loved, but have read on my own since. The movie is classic. Peck is wonderful, and it has the first screen appearance of Robert Duvall.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 7:34 a.m. CST

    Ebert wrote that Man in the Moon was like poetry,

    by CreasyBear

    and I agree. Nothing wasted, simple and intimate, a great movie.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 8:54 a.m. CST

    thank you, loserguy!

    by LegoKenobi

    some good news in these dark times, and your post was the first i've heard of it. also, my condolences to mr. mulligan's family. he was legendary, and his work will not be forgotten.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 9 a.m. CST

    Blade Runner

    by Il Buono Il Brutto Il Cattivo

    Mulligan was one of the first directors to be attached to Blade Runner way before Ridley Scott became involved. That would have been interesting to see how he tackled that material. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my mum's favorite movies. The great directors are dropping like flies. This is sad news, but he leaves a classic filmography behind.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 9:18 a.m. CST

    Mulligan's Blade Runner?

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    That is something to think about. I have the feeling he would have stuck with a title closer to the original, than Blade Runner. I don't know why, but I've never cared for Blade Runner that much, and I love sci-fi, and Ford. Ridley Scott I don't care for all the time. Some stuff I like, and some I don't.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 9:36 a.m. CST

    To kill a Mocking Bird is

    by eric haislar

    one of my fav films. God speed sir.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 10:21 a.m. CST

    Binks- A brief grammar lesson

    by BobParr

    You should use quotation marks when referring to a specific term.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 10:26 a.m. CST

    Mr. Beaks

    by BobParr

    Very mature of you to call a guy names and threaten to have him removed from AICN for saying something you disagree with. How progressive of you indeed.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 10:55 a.m. CST

    BobParr, I don't see why the word

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    nigger, if that is what you're referring to needs quotation marks. It's a word. That is like saying I would need quotes on asshole, or something like that. Unless I'm misunderstanding you, which could be the case, I don't see why the quotes are needed. I'm not quoting anyone, and there's no hidden meaning. It's a hateful word. That doesn't mean the word does not exist or we should pretend it doesn't. And, that is my point exactly. Schools are banning books by Twain for using the word. Twain was not a racist, he was showing what society was like at the time. I love how Mel Brooks took the word nigger, and made all the white people look stupid. That was hillarious.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 11:37 a.m. CST

    Binks, where's your head at?

    by Powers Boothe

    Dude, are you losing sleep over shit like this? Why do you care so much?<p>I always wonder what's going on in the head of a guy who spends so much time wondering why he doesn't get to hear (or use) the word nigger anymore. <p>Move on and take this crap elsewhere. This isn't the place. Why not go create a 'whypoliticalcorrectnessiskillingamerica' web site and talk about it over there?

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Grammaton Cleric Binks

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    Your experience with this, mirrors my own with "Of Mice And Men". I was given that book in class and made aware that it would be in our final exams. I read the book, loved it, and then watched the movie with John Malkovich (did I spell that correctly?) and felt my world change forever. It's possible the first time I can ever remember LOVING both a book and its film adaption with equal passion.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 1:35 p.m. CST

    RIP Mr. Mulligan...

    by dingleberryjerry

    Loved your work on Empty Nest and Soap!

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 1:38 p.m. CST


    by mrfan

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 1:50 p.m. CST

    I agree with the Twain comment...


    People are fucking clueless douche bags for ever finding his work to be one bit racist. He thought the idea of treating races differently was a fucking joke!! I was actually told by a college English professor that Twain was a racist and Huck Finn has no place in public schools. Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 2:15 p.m. CST


    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    I was never assigned Of Mice and Men, but saw the movie version with Sinise and Malkovitch. I then read the book. Both are great, and Ray Walston was great as the sad old man whose name escapes me at the moment.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 2:44 p.m. CST

    Son of a Bitch.

    by codymr

    I liked this guy's work a ton... will a have to buy the TKAM DVD and listen to the commentary as Seppukudkurosawa suggests.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 2:55 p.m. CST

    you guys need to watch the original of mice and me

    by bacci40

    with burgess meredith and lon cheney jr...brilliant movie

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 3:06 p.m. CST

    Can't say I agree with you Binks...

    by Skyway Moaters

    ... on the N-word thing, and yes I realize that by calling it the "N-Word", I could be reinforcing your point of view, but I try not to use words that I find offensive, unless there is some 'point' to it, as in a modern-day film about a bigot. <p> But, if you enjoyed the Sinise/Malkovich version of "Of Mice and Men" you might want to check out the 1939 Lewis Milestone directed version starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. A little dated perhaps, when compared to the Sinise/Horton Foote adaptation, but excellent none-the-less IMO, (nominated for best picture BTW).

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 7:20 p.m. CST

    If all Mr. Mulligan did was give us Reece Witherspoon...

    by Chishu_Ryu

    ...that would be enough.

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 7:31 p.m. CST

    Chili, lunch 2008 - lunch 2008

    by Godovhellfire

  • Dec. 22, 2008, 8:26 p.m. CST

    Skyway Moaters

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    There's nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree. Some people can handle intelligent debate, and others are juvenile, and lack maturity to discuss complicated issues. The same latter have no problem bashing Scientology or homosexuality in a Tom Cruise talkback. I love Burgess Meredith (RIP). I'll have to track that one down.