March 6, 2015 / 6:18 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles dies at 88

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Albert Maysles poses for a picture at his offices in New York in this file photo taken on March 6, 2006.Seth Wenig

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Albert Maysles, a pioneering American documentary filmmaker best known for works such as "Grey Gardens" and "Gimme Shelter," has died at age 88, his family said on Friday.

Maysles passed away on Thursday at his home in New York following a brief battle with cancer.

"For more than five decades, Albert created groundbreaking films, inspired filmmakers and touched all those with his humanity, presence and his belief in the power of love," the family said in a statement.

Together with his brother David, who died in 1987, Maysles made more than 50 films. They were considered among the most prominent figures in documentary films.

The brothers, who founded Maysles Films in the 1960s, developed the art of making non-fiction, fly-on-the-wall films in which the drama of life unfolded without the use of scripts, sets or narration.

"Albert was a genius of the documentary film world," actor Robert Duvall said in a statement. "He left us with a great legacy and among the best documentaries that will ever be seen. He will be missed."

Among their most famous films was the 1970 movie "Gimme Shelter" in which the brothers followed rock band The Rolling Stones during their 1969 tour, including their performance at the Altamont concert, where they captured the stabbing death of an audience member on film.

The brothers' classic 1975 work "Grey Gardens" explored the shut-in lives of a mother and daughter, relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who lived in a run-down mansion.

Maysles' final films, "Iris," about style icon Iris Apfel, will be released this spring, and the documentary "In Transit," will premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

The brothers won numerous awards and were nominated for an Oscar in 1974 for best documentary short subject for their film "Christo's Valley Curtain."

Three-time Emmy winner Maysles was born in Boston to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He taught psychology at Boston University before turning to filmmaking in 1955. His first film, "Psychiatry in Russia," was about patients in mental hospitals.

In the 1960s the brothers made "Meet Marlon Brando" and "With Love from Truman," about the author Truman Capote. Those films were followed by the feature-length documentary "Salesman," about Bible salesmen in Boston, which is considered an American classic.

In 2001 Maysles received the Sundance Film Festival 2001 Cinematography Award for Documentaries for his film "Lalee Kin: The Legacy of Cotton."

Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Marguerita Choy

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