"Horses".' star Michael Sarrazin dies at 70

Mon Apr 18, 2011 8:02pm EDT
 
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By Kimberly Nordyke

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Michael Sarrazin, best known for starring opposite Jane Fonda in 1969's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," has died in Montreal after a brief battle with cancer. He was 70.

Sarrazin died Sunday surrounded by family.

In Sydney Pollack's Depression era-set "Horses," which was nominated for nine Oscars and won a single statuette for Gig Young's supporting role, Fonda played a suicidal woman who heads to Hollywood and meets up with Sarrazin's character, an aspiring director. The two enter a grueling dance marathon, during which she tries to convince him to shoot her and put her out of her misery.

Among Sarrazin's other memorable roles were Irvin Kershner's 1967 con-artist movie "The Flim-Flam Man," in which he played the reluctant apprentice to grifter George C. Scott, and the Paul Newman-directed 1970 film "Sometimes a Great Notion," playing Newman's misunderstood half-brother.

"Michael was one of the most talented, generous and committed actors I have ever worked with," George Mihalka, who directed Sarrazin in 1993's "La Florida," told the Montreal Gazette. "He never stopped surprising me with his wit, charm and, above all, his humility and simple decency."

Added his brother, Pierre Sarrazin, who produced "La Florida": "He wasn't a particularly good student. But he was a great actor. His first high school role was in The Bishop's Candlestick, and he was very upset when he came offstage and everyone in the crowd was laughing. He thought they were laughing at him. They were laughing with him."

Sarrazin was born Jacques Michel Andre Sarrazin in Quebec City in 1940 and later moved with his family to Montreal.

In 1965, Sarrazin signed with Universal, becoming one of the last actors to come up through the old studio system. After a series of small roles in TV, his film career took off with the 1967 Western "Gunfight in Abilene," starring Bobby Darin and Leslie Nielsen.   Continued...