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Noteworthy Deaths

Revolutionized documentary filmmaking


This article was published August 2, 2014 at 3:08 a.m.


FILE - In this April 27, 2007 photo provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anne and Robert Drew, left, join Ed Carter and Grace Guggenheim, right, during an event honoring him at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The "cinema verite" technique and its pioneer, documentary filmmaker Robert Drew, were celebrated by the National Archives and Records Administration and Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Drews eldest son, Thatcher Drew, confirmed that the filmmaker died Wednesday morning, July 30, 2014, at his home in Sharon, Conn. (AP Photo/Neshan Naltchayan, AMPAS)

Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in Primary and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles, has died at age 90.

His son, Thatcher Drew, confirmed that he died Wednesday at his home in Sharon, Conn.

Starting in 1960 with Primary, Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light, hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures. With filmmakers newly unburdened, nonfiction movies no longer had to be carefully staged and awkwardly narrated.

Drew's dozens of films included The Chair, a 1963 documentary about a death penalty case in Illinois, and 784 Days That Changed America: From Watergate to Resignation, winner in 1982 of a Peabody Award. Many of his movies were edited and co-produced by his wife, Anne Drew, who died in 2012.

While a photographer and editor with Life, Drew formed Drew Associates in 1960 with the goal of applying his magazine experience to films. Among those joining him were such future directors as Pennebaker (Don't Look Back, The War Room), Maysles (who with brother David made Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens) and Richard Leacock (Happy Mother's Day).

Drew's Primary, which followed presidential candidates Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy as they battled in the Wisconsin primary in 1960, is widely ranked among the most important political documentaries. In 1990, it was entered into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry for historic works.

Metro on 08/02/2014

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