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Before Richard Brooks won an Oscar, he was a Marine

Richard Brooks worked as a writer, director, novelist and producer. He joined the Corps in 1943 while World War II was raging on.
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Brooks with Peter O'Toole on Lord Jim while filming in Cambodia.

Richard Brooks worked as a writer, director, novelist and producer. His films include Blackboard Jungle, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Elmer Gantry (he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay), In Cold Blood and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Brooks joined the Corps in 1943 while World War II was raging on. His service was mostly spent with the Marine Corps film unit in Quantico, VA.

He sometimes went to Camp Pendleton in California as well. Brooks learned about filmmaking while in uniform and wrote a novel, The Brick Foxhole, during his service. He wrote and edited documentaries while in the Corps. Post his service and back in Hollywood, his book was adapted into the feature film Crossfire in 1947.

His career took off in the 1950s with the opportunity to work with Cary Grant in Crisis in 1950 and Humphrey Bogart in Deadline – U.S.A in 1952. His first big hit was Blackboard Jungle with Glenn Ford in 1955. The film was an opportunity for such actors as Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow and Jamie Farr. His next big hit was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which starred Liz Taylor and Paul Newman. The movie was an adaptation of Tennesee William’s play of the same name and covered a lot of taboo topics of the times. His third notable movie was Elmer Gantry, which starred Burt Lancaster, Shirley Jones and Jean Simmons. Brooks won an Oscar for his script adaptation. The movie earned Oscars from Burt Lancaster as the lead and Shirley Jones as a supporting actress. Brooks adapted another Williams play, Sweet Bird of Youth, which starred Ed Begley who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the film. Brooks is on a roll.

Liz Taylor with Brooks on the set of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

His next film, Lord Jim, was an expensive production with Peter O’Toole, Eli Wallach, Daliah Lavi and James Mason with a screenplay by Brooks. The film was a flop even after receiving BAFTA nominations. To find new footing in Hollywood, Brooks directed The Professionals, a western which starred Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, Jack Palance and Italian beauty Claudia Cardinale. The film was a critical and box office hit. He was back on his way after one-speed bump.

Burt Lancaster, Richard Brooks and Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry.

He followed up with In Cold Blood, the famous Truman Capote novel based on true events. It is a real-life murder story in the heartland of America. The movie stars Scott Wilson and Robert Blake. The film received many Oscar nominations with Brooks being double nominated (Director and Screenplay). Brooks next attempted to make First Blood in 1972 at Columbia Pictures. The film was planned to have either Lee Marvin or Burt Lancaster as Sheriff Teasle and Bette Davis as a psychiatrist. He wanted to comment on veterans of World War II and Vietnam. The film would not be made as Vientam continued to rage on and the rights were sold to Warner Brothers.

Robert Blake, John Forsythe and Scott Wilson on set for In Cold Blood.

Brooks made one more top-level film with the adaptation of the book, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, in 1977. It stars Diane Keaton in a thriller-murder story set in New York City. The movie earned two Oscar nominations and was a break for such actors as Tom Berenger and Richard Gere. It also made money at the box office and received solid praise from critics. He made two more films, Wrong is Right with Sean Connery and Fever Pitch with Ryan O’Neal and Catherine Hicks. Neither film was a success and he retired from the film-making life.

Richard Brooks left a legacy of great films, directing and entertainment. He passed away in 1992 at the age of 79.