Frank Perry

For the South Australian industrialist and politician, see Frank Perry (politician).
Frank Perry
Born Frank Joseph Perry, Jr.
(1930-08-21)August 21, 1930
New York City, U.S.
Died August 29, 1995(1995-08-29) (aged 65)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Prostate cancer
Residence Aspen, Colorado, U.S.
Alma mater University of Miami
Occupation Filmmaker
Years active 1962–1992
Employer Westport Country Playhouse
Notable work David and Lisa, Mommie Dearest, On The Bridge
Spouse(s) Eleanor Rosenfeld
(m. 1958—1971; divorced)
Barbara Goldsmith
(m. 1977—1992; divorced)
Virginia Brush Ford
(m. 1992—1995; his death)
Parent(s) Frank Joseph Perry, Sr.
Pauline E. Schwab
Relatives Katy Perry (niece)
Charles M. Schwab (great uncle)

Frank Joseph Perry, Jr.[1] (August 21, 1930 – August 29, 1995) was an American stage director and filmmaker. The 1962 independent film David and Lisa was nominated for two Academy Awards for best director (Frank Perry) and best screenplay (written by his then-wife, Eleanor Perry). The couple would go on to collaborate on five more films including cult classic, The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster, Diary of a Mad Housewife starring Carrie Snodgress and the Emmy award-nominated A Christmas Memory which was based on a short story by Truman Capote, and also adapted by Frank's Emmy-award-winning wife, screenwriter Eleanor. Frank Perry went on to form Corsair Pictures, which was privately financed by United Artists, producing two film flops, Miss Firecracker and A Shock to the System, before folding.[2][3] His later films include the Razzie Award-nominee Joan Crawford bio drama Mommie Dearest and the documentary On The Bridge, about his struggle with prostate cancer.

Early life

Frank Joseph Perry, Jr. was born in New York City, to stockbroker Frank Joseph Perry, Sr. (March 21, 1905 — December 9, 1969)[4] and Pauline E. Schwab, who worked at Alcoholics Anonymous.[1] Pauline was also a niece of Charles M. Schwab, who founded the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. As a teenager, Frank Jr. began pursuing his interest in the theater with a job as a parking lot attendant for the Westport Country Playhouse in nearby Westport, Connecticut. He attended the University of Miami. He produced several plays at Westport and then turned for a time to producing television documentaries.


A veteran of the Korean War, he returned back to the entertainment industry after being discharged and made his directorial debut in 1962 with the low-budget drama film David and Lisa. Based on the novel by Theodore Isaac Rubin, the screenplay was written by his wife, Eleanor Rosenfeld, who received a nomination for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay. A character study of two emotionally disturbed teenagers, the film was successful at the box office and met with much critical acclaim, earning him a nomination for an Academy Award for Directing. Both Perrys would eventually join the select group of non-actors awarded membership in Actors Studio.[5] Perry went on to direct and produce a number of films, including The Swimmer (1968) based on a John Cheever story, Last Summer (1969), and Trilogy (1969), written by Truman Capote.

Perry is known for his character studies involving a dysfunctional family, such as that in his wife's script of the Sue Kaufman novel Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970). That film earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Carrie Snodgress, and Play It As It Lays (1972), starring Tuesday Weld, brought her a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination. Both of these films Perry produced and directed, though he is probably best remembered for directing the notorious 1981 low-budget biographical drama Mommie Dearest, an adaptation of a biography by actress Joan Crawford's adoptive daughter, which portrayed the famous movie star as a crazed, sadistic tyrant who cared more about her acting career than her adopted children. The film became a cult classic despite mixed reviews from critics; it also won the razzie award for worst picture and Frank Perry was nominated for worst director.

Some of his film-related material and personal papers are contained in the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives, to which scholars and media experts from around the world may have full access.[6]

Personal life and death

In 1958, Frank married his first wife Eleanor, who was 15 years his senior. Perry and Eleanor collaborated on many screen projects, including screenwriting Academy Award nomination for 1962's "David & Lisa".[7] They divorced in 1971 on grounds of incompatibility.[8] The union produced no children. Eleanor Perry died of cancer a decade later, at age 66. In 1977, Perry married his second wife, founding editor of New York magazine and author (“Little Gloria … Happy at Last"} Barbara Goldsmith, divorcing in 1992. Soon after, he married his Aspen ski instructor, 22-year-younger Virginia Brush Ford, on June 15, 1992. His sister[9] is pastor Mary Christine Perry, the wife of pastor Maurice Keith Hudson and mother of singers Katy Perry and David Hudson.[10]

Perry died of prostate cancer on August 29, 1995, eight days after his 65th birthday, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.[11] His final film, 1992's On the Bridge, is an autobiographical documentary dealing with the illness. His ashes were scattered on the mountains of Aspen, Colorado, where he lived the last three years of his life.[12]



  1. 1 2 "Mrs. Frank J. Perry, 56, Alcoholics Anonymous Aide". The New York Times. March 13, 1965.
  2. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner "Frank Perry to head new film company" by Charles Fleming, March 15, 1988
  3. Variety "Lost & Found: Name: Frank Perry Description: Film Director Last Seen: On the ski lift" January 4, 1993
  4. "Frank Joseph Perry". Find a Grave. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  5. Garfield, David (1980). "Strasberg Takes Over: 1951-1955". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 93. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. Various directors and playwrights, including Frank Corsaro, Martin Fried, Jack Garfein, Michal V. Gazzo, Charles Gordone, Israel Horovitz, Arthur Penn, Eleanor Perry, Frank Perry, Sidney Pollack, Mark Rydell, Alan Schneider, and John Stix, have also been granted membership on the basis of their contributions to the life and work of The Actors Studio, as have certain other non-performers, such as Liska March and Carl Schaeffer.
  6. "Cinema Archives - Weslyan University". Wesleyan University. Retrieved September 2013. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. Oliver, Myrna (September 1, 1995). "Obituaries : Frank Perry; Director of 'David and Lisa'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  8. Lawson, Carol. "Eleanor Perry Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 1981. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. Bloom, Nate (September 4, 2012). "Interfaith Celebrities: New TV Season, Segel and Williams Soar, Mayer and Perry Crash". InterfaithFamily. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  10. Gussow, Mel (August 31, 1995). "Frank Perry, 65, the Director Who Filmed 'David and Lisa'". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  11. Smith, Liz (September 7, 1995). "Douglas Behaves to Save Marriage". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 6, 2011.

Further reading

External links

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