Broadway Choreographer and Film Director Herbert Ross Is Dead at 74

News   Broadway Choreographer and Film Director Herbert Ross Is Dead at 74 Herbert Ross, the Broadway choreographer who would become a film director and helm a clutch of Neil Simon movies, plus the dance-related "Footloose" and "The Turning Point," died Oct. 9 of heart failure, The New York Times reported.
Herbert Ross films
Herbert Ross films "Goodbye, Mr. Chips. (Photo by Photo by John Jay)

Herbert Ross, the Broadway choreographer who would become a film director and helm a clutch of Neil Simon movies, plus the dance-related "Footloose" and "The Turning Point," died Oct. 9 of heart failure, The New York Times reported.

The Brooklyn and Manhattan resident was 74 and leaves behind films that were memorably linked to the theatre, either by subject ("Funny Lady," "The Goodbye Girl," "The Turning Point") or by their Broadway origins ("I Ought To Be in Pictures," "The Sunshine Boys," "California Suite," "The Owl and the Pussycat").

Mr. Ross choreographed a young Barbra Streisand in her Broadway debut, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, and was the choreographer for the 1968 film, "Funny Girl," in which Streisand recreated her stage role of Fanny Brice. As a stage director, he helmed the Broadway flop, Kelly, but was a trusted choreographer on the Stephen Sondheim Arthur Laurents experiment, Anyone Can Whistle; Sondheim and Rodgers' Do I Hear a Waltz?; Dietz and Schwartz's Schnitzler-based The Gay Life, Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's House of Flowers, Schwartz and Fields' A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and directed and choreographed the 1960 City Center revival of Finian's Rainbow.

Mr. Ross also directed the legendary 1985 concert revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies at Avery Fisher Hall in Manhattan. The concert is preserved on video and CD. He is also credited with "additional musical staging" for The Apple Tree.

Mr. Ross, born Herbert David Ross, attended high school in Miami Beach, FL, and studied dance in New York City with Doris Humphrey, Helene Platova and Laird Leslie, and began his career as an actor and dancer. He made his stage debut, according to Who's Who of the American Theatre, as the Third Witch in a touring production of Macbeth, also playing Laertes in Hamlet and the Duke of Venice in Othello (1942-43). He danced in Broadway's Follow the Girls, Bloomer Girl, Laffing Room Only, Beggar's Holiday, Look, Ma, I'm Dancin' and Inside U.S.A.

Mr. Ross' career also included TV directing and choreography, creating work for opera, ballet and his own company.

His other film credits include "Nijinsky," "Footloose," "The Seven Percent Solution," "Play It Again, Sam," "Steel Magnolias" and "Pennies From Heaven." He was also a film producer. Among his cult projects was directing and producing "The Last of Sheila," the 1973 murder-mystery which had a screenplay by Sondheim and Anthony Perkins.

Mr. Ross choreographed the musical sequences in the films, "Dr. Doolittle" (1967), "Summer Holiday," "Inside Daisy Clover," "Carmen Jones" and "The Young Ones" and directed a 1958 TV version of "Wonderful Town." His first film directing credit was the 1969 movie musical, "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" starring Peter O'Toole.

Mr. Ross was married to ballerina Nora Kaye in 1959. She died of cancer in 1987. His marriage to Lee Radziwill ended in divorce, the Times reported.

— By Kenneth Jones