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Andrew Sarris
Born (1928-10-31)October 31, 1928
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Died June 20, 2012(2012-06-20) (aged 83)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Occupation Film critic
Education Columbia University
Period 1960–2012
Spouse
Molly Haskell
(m. 1969)

Andrew Sarris (October 31, 1928 – June 20, 2012) was an American film critic, a leading proponent of the auteur theory of film criticism.

Early life

Sarris was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Greek immigrant parents, Themis (née Katavolos) and George Andrew Sarris, and grew up in Ozone Park, Queens. After attending John Adams High School in South Ozone Park (where he overlapped with Jimmy Breslin), he graduated from Columbia University in 1951 and then served for three years in the Army Signal Corps before moving to Paris for a year, where he befriended Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. Upon returning to New York's Lower East Side, Sarris briefly pursued graduate studies at his alma mater and Teachers College, Columbia University before turning to film criticism as a vocation.

Career

After initially writing for Film Culture, he moved to The Village Voice where his first piece—a laudatory review of Psycho—was published in 1960. Later he remembered, "The Voice had all these readers—little old ladies who lived on the West Side, guys who had fought in the Spanish Civil War—and this seemed so regressive to them, to say that Hitchcock was a great artist". Around this time, he returned to Paris where he was present at the premiere of such French New Wave films such as Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player (1960) and Godard's A Woman Is a Woman (1961). The experience expanded his view of film criticism: "To show you the dividing line in my thinking, when I did a Top Ten list for the Voice in 1958, I had a Stanley Kramer film on the list and I left off both Vertigo and Touch of Evil". He continued to write film criticism regularly until 2009 for The New York Observer, and was a professor of film at Columbia University (where he earned an M.A. in English in 1998), teaching courses in international film history, American cinema, and Alfred Hitchcock until his retirement in 2011. Sarris was a co-founder of the National Society of Film Critics.

Legacy

In 2001, the film scholar and critic Emanuel Levy published "Citizen Sarris, American Film Critic: Essays in Honor of Andrew Sarris", a collection of 39 essays by notable critics (Dave Kehr, Todd McCarthy, Gerald Perry) and filmmakers (Martin Scorsese, John Sayles, Peter Bogdanovich, Curtis Hanson) alongside fans of Sarris' works.

Film critics such as J. Hoberman, Kenneth Turan, Armond White, Michael Phillips, and A.O. Scott have cited him as an influence. His career is discussed in For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, first with other critics discussing how he brought the auteur theory from France, and then by Sarris himself explaining how he applied that theory to his original review of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. In 1997, Camille Paglia described Sarris as her third favorite critic, praising "his acute columns during the high period of The Village Voice."

Personal life

Sarris married fellow film critic Molly Haskell in 1969; they lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He died at St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan on June 20, 2012, from an infection developed after a fall.

Works

  • The Films of Josef Von Sternberg
  • The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929–1968
  • Confessions of a Cultist
  • The Primal Screen
  • Politics and Cinema
  • The John Ford Movie Mystery
  • You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet: The American Talking Film – History and Memory, 1927–1949
  • Cahiers du Cinéma in English (editor) New York: Cahiers Publishing Co., Inc., 1966-
  • Citizen Sarris: Essays in Honor of Andrew Sarris. Baltimore: Scarecrow Press, 2000.
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