Michael Sarrazin, an actor who starred with Jane Fonda in Sydney Pollack’s 1969 film “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,” died of cancer in Montreal on Sunday. He was 70.
The Canadian-born Sarrazin began his feature film career with the 1967 pics “Gunfight in Abilene,” with Bobby Darin, and “The Flim-Flam Man,” starring George C. Scott. The next year he starred with Jacqueline Bisset in “The Sweet Ride” — he played a surfer who falls with starlet Bisset — and the two began a relationship that ran several years.
In “They Shoot Horses,” Sarrazin and Fonda played a couple involved in a grueling dance marathon during the Depression. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, though Sarrazin was not one of those who drew a nom; Gig Young won for supporting actor.
Sarrazin was a contender for the part in “Midnight Cowboy” that ultimately went to Jon Voight but lost out because the producers of the film wouldn’t agree to Universal’s conditions for borrowing the actor.
In 1970 he appeared in the Paul Newman-directed “Sometimes a Great Notion” with Newman, Henry Fonda and Lee Remick, and he worked with Newman again in John Huston’s 1972 “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.” He worked with James Coburn in 1973’s “Harry in Your Pocket” and with Barbra Streisand in 1974’s “For Pete’s Sake” (he was Pete). Other notable films were “The Gumball Rally” and “Joshua Then and Now.”
He later did mostly television work, and his last role was in Hallmark Channel telepic “The Christmas Choir” in 2008.
Born Jacques Michel Andre Sarrazin in Quebec, Sarrazin eventually dropped out of school. As a teen he worked at a theater in Toronto, on TV and for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Later he studied acting at the Actors Studio in New York. While playing parts in a series of historical documentary shorts for for the National Film Board of Canada, Sarrazin was noticed by Universal and signed in 1965.
Several years ago Sarrazin opted to return to Montreal to be closer to family.
He is survived by his daughters and his brother, Pierre, a producer.