September 29, 2010 / 4:32 PM / 7 years ago

Director Arthur Penn dies at age 88

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Film, stage and television director Arthur Penn, whose 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde” revolutionized the depiction of sex and violence on screen, has died at the age of 88.

Penn’s friend and New York financial manager Evan Bell told Reuters that Penn, who earned three Oscar nominations for “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Miracle Worker” and “Alice’s Restaurant,” died on Tuesday night at his Manhattan home with his family at his side, the day after his 88th birthday.

Bell said Penn had been sick for about a year. He did not disclose the cause of death.

Penn also directed “Little Big Man”, won a Tony award for his Broadway production of “The Miracle Worker” and worked with actors Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman throughout his long career.

His 1962 movie version of “The Miracle Worker” earned an Oscar for lead actress Anne Bancroft, and Estelle Parsons and Patty Duke also won Oscars in movies Penn directed.

But it was “Bonnie and Clyde” -- the glamorous, sexually-charged tale of two 1930s outlaws whose lives end in a slow-motion hail of bullets and blood -- that made Penn’s name and put him at the vanguard of the so-called Hollywood New Wave of the 1960s and 1970s.

Though initially disliked by U.S. critics, the movie became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, made stars out of Dunaway and Hackman, and inspired a string of revisionist gangster movies such as “The Wild Bunch”, “Badlands” and “The Godfather”.

“Bonnie and Clyde” was nominated for 10 Oscars, won two, but Penn lost the best director trophy to Mike Nichols and “The Graduate”.

“Arthur Penn brought the sensibility of ‘60s European art films to American movies. He paved the way for the new generation of American directors who came out of film schools,” writer and director Paul Schrader told the New York Times on Wednesday.

In 1982, as his movie fortunes suffered another in a series of career lows, Penn was quoted as saying that there was no longer a market for his style.

“The movies have changed: there’s now this wonderful storyteller (Steven) Spielberg making benign movies that are enormously successful, while I‘m known mainly for making movies about people shooting and cutting each other up. I love his work, but I could never make stuff like that,” Penn said.

Born in Philadelphia, Penn helped organize theater troupes in the army, and later studied at the famed Actor’s Studio in New York.

He began his career in television in the 1950s directing live dramas, before working on Broadway where he mounted Tony award winning productions of “The Miracle Worker”, “Two for the Seesaw” and “All the Way Home” in the early 1960s.

After initially struggling in Hollywood, he turned in a hit with “The Miracle Worker” in 1962, but was subsequently fired from the sets of “The Train” and “The Chase.”

He was encouraged to return by Beatty for “Bonnie and Clyde” and followed it up later with the counter-culture satire “Alice’s Restaurant”, the Native American epic “Little Big Man” starring Dustin Hoffman, and “The Missouri Breaks” with Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson.

Later in his life, Penn returned to television, working as executive producer on “Law & Order” and the 2001 TV courthouse series “100 Center Street” among other shows.

He had been married to actress Peggy Mauer since 1955 and is survived by her, two children and four grand-children.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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