A Viewer’s Guide to the Work of Frank Pierson

Word of the death of writer-director Frank Pierson brought mentions of the expected films, including “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Cool Hand Luke.” And I still laugh at the thought of a drunken Lee Marvin atop an equally inebriated horse in “Cat Ballou.”

Those seeking to familiarize themselves with Pierson’s work, however, would be done a great disservice if they focused solely on his features and neglected several of the made-for-cable movies with which he was associated, beginning with “Conspiracy,” an absolutely chilling HBO movie about the Wannsee conference, where the Nazis matter-of-factly came up with their “final solution.”

Pierson also directed “Soldier’s Girl,” a sensationally touching and poignant Showtime film, highlighted by the central performances of Troy Garity and Lee Pace (the latter unrecognizable if you came to know him as the star of the too-short-lived ABC series “Pushing Daisies”). The film will actually air on one of Showtime’s channels July 29.

Finally, Pierson helmed “Citizen Cohn,” a terrific showcase for James Woods as the anti-Communist sidekick of Sen. Joe McCarthy.

Tellingly, Pierson (who was 87 when he died Monday) directed all these films after turning 65. He’ll also be remembered for stints as president of the Academy of Motion PIcture Arts & Sciences and the Writers Guild of America West, with which he remained active virtually throughout his lifetime.

Pierson is a talent who will be sorely missed. And whether writing or directing, he never seemed to suffer from a failure to communicate.

 

 

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