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‘Tootsie’ director Sydney Pollack dies

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Sydney Pollack, left

Sydney Pollack, left

Sydney Pollack began his career as an actor, then frequently continued as one, even after winning producing and directing Oscars for 1985's "Out of Africa."

Maybe this explained the chemistry with his actors, which included a particularly successful partnership with superstar Robert Redford, who starred in seven Pollack movies, including "The Way We Were."

Even so, Redford was not among the actors nominated for Oscars under Pollack's stewardship. Their numbers include the stars of Pollack's most durably popular movie, "Tootsie:" Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman. A guy in a dress, which is, well, not exactly the Redford way.

Pollack died Monday afternoon of cancer at his home in the Pacific Palisades, his agent Leslie Dart told The Associated Press. He was 73. Concerns about his health had surfaced in 2007 when suddenly he bowed out of directing HBO's "Recount."

Thanks to his on-camera career, which included TV appearances on "Will & Grace," "The Sopranos" and "Entourage," Pollack was probably better known to the public than most of his peers behind the camera. As an actor, he hosted the fatal party in Stanley Kubrick's swan song "Eyes Wide Shut," earned notably good reviews playing a man with a midlife crisis in Woody Allen's 1992's "Husbands and Wives" and as the shocked agent in "Tootsie."

What's more, Pollack's credits as a producer or executive producer of other people's movies would add luster to anybody's resume: "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "Searching for Bobby Fischer," "Sense and Sensibility," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Cold Mountain" and "Michael Clayton," to name just six.

Born in Indiana, Pollack taught acting in the 1950s and remained married to onetime student Claire Griswold, whom he wed nearly 50 years ago, to the end. They had three children, and the statement to The Associated Press said he was surrounded by family members.

Pollack gradually evolved into a TV director in the early '60s — although a 1962 acting assignment in a low-budget Korean War film led to incalculable good fortune.

The relatively obscure "War Hunt" garnered enough attention even then to make the National Board of Review's annual 10-best list but still played the bottom of double bills. Its lead, however, was Redford in his big-screen debut.

A friendship was forged, and just four years later, Pollack was directing Redford and Natalie Wood in "This Property Is Condemned," Pollack's second feature and one of four movies before his artistic breakthrough with 1969's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

As with many careers, Pollack's can be charted along with the heavy hitters. Compared with, say, the expansive New York oeuvre of director Sidney Lumet, Pollack was more of a craftsman who made commercial material even better.