Robert Mulligan 1925 - 2008. Directed TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, FEAR STRIKES OUT, SUMMER OF '42.
Published at: Dec. 21, 2008, 8:52 p.m. CST by mrbeaks
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