Michael Ritchie, the noted film director who first made his mark in the work of entertainment by directing the initial production of Arthur Kopit's Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad, died on April 16, the New York Times reported. The cause was complications from prostate cancer. He was 62.
In 1960, while a senior at Harvard University, Ritchie created a minor publicity storm in the theatrical world in staging the first play by fellow student, Arthur Kopit. Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Kopit's absurdist portrait of a man-eating mother and her cloistered son, quickly, and somewhat improbably, attracted the attentions of big name producers in New York and London, who engaged in a bidding war for the right to produce the work professionally. The play was published before most of the theatrical community had even seen it — an unheard of practice in those days.
Oh Dad eventually premiered Off Broadway at the Phoenix Theatre. Jerome Robbins chose it as his non-musical directing debut. The cast featured Jo Van Fleet and the then-unknown Barbara Harris and Austin Pendleton. The show became a hit and ran for over a year.
As a result of his Harvard work on Oh Dad, Ritchie was offered a job directing television. By 1969, he had graduated to film, creating such memorable pictures as "The Candidate," "Smile," "Downhill Racer" and "The Bad News Bears." He never, however, returned to the theatre, though he did direct the recently released 1995 film version of the musical The Fantasticks.
Mr. Ritchie was born in Waukesha, WI. He is survived by his wife, a son, four daughters and two stepchildren. —By Robert Simonson