D. A. Pennebaker, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker who captured lightning in a bottle with Original Cast Album: Company in 1970, died August 1 at his home in Sag Harbor, New York. He was 94.
In May of 1970, Mr. Pennebaker spent nearly 24 hours filming theatrical titans Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince during recording sessions for the Broadway cast album of their latest musical, Company. The behind-the-scenes account of the album’s creation is a staple for any theatre-invested cinephile, as creative brilliance and showbiz egos collide during Elaine Stritch’s late-night recording of “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
Planned as part of a television series that never materialized, Original Cast Album: Company took on a cult status among theatre fans and industry members in the decades that followed, remaining unreleased until 1992.
Stritch’s triumphant recovery the following morning provided Mr. Pennebaker with a thrilling capstone for the documentary, and a lasting connection that reunited them 30 years later for Elaine Stritch At Liberty, which Mr. Pennebaker filmed during its run at London’s Old Vic. Stritch later won an Emmy for her performance.
Mr. Pennebaker spent much of his career documenting the ego and artistry of influential rock musicians, including Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back (1967); Jimi Hendrix, the Who, and the Mamas and the Papas in Monterey Pop (1968); and David Bowie in Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1973). Pennebaker later turned his lens to politics documenting Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign with The War Room.
He is survived by his wife and frequent collaborator Chris Hegedus, and eight children.