You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Director Fred Baker dies at 78

Made Lenny Bruce documentary

Fred Baker, a filmmaker, actor, director, screenwriter and jazz musician, died of natural causes on June 5 in New York City. He was 78.

Baker was among the subversive, experimental, underground filmmakers of the 1960s and ’70s, turning out films such as “Events,” “The Murder of Fred Hampton” and 1992’s “White Trash.” He was an uncredited exec producer on Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 classic “The Battle of Algiers.”

A longtime friend of comedian Lenny Bruce, Baker was best known for his 1972 documentary “Lenny Bruce Without Tears.”

Born in Los Angeles, Baker came to films via an extensive career in the theater, which began in 1952 playing a lead role in Mary Chase’s “Bernadine” on Broadway. After a three-year stint in the Army in Korea and Europe, Baker starred in three films in Germany for U.S. television. Upon returning to New York, he began a string of character roles in many Broadway and touring productions.

Eventually, Baker began directing Off Broadway and road companies.

He started his film and TV work in the mid-’60s at New York pubcaster WNET. From there, he began his work as an independent filmmaker. His short Jazz dance film “On the Sound,” featuring Martha Grahame dancers, won awards and special mention at USA Golden Eagle, Venice and Berlin film festivals and was most recently honored at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 2011 “Dance on Camera Series.”

“Lenny Bruce Without Tears” was featured at the 2011 Toronto Jewish Film Festival as part of “The 3 Lenny’s: Bernstein, Cohen and Bruce.”

In the 1970s Fred and his wife Barbara founded FBFVCO, Fred Baker Film & Video Co. Fred went on to produce independent films of his own, as well as to acquire and distribute films including David Lynch’s “Eraserhead,” Luchino Visconti’s “The Innocent,” Marco Fererri’s “Tales of Ordinary Madness” and Jean-Charles Tachella’s “Cousin Cousine.”

His last directing effort was 2008’s “Assata aka Joanne Chesimard,” about a Black Panther’s who’s falsely convicted.

Baker kept up his acting work onstage with a 1996 appearance as Roy Cohn in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” during a 10-week road tour of the Southwest.

Survivors include his partner, Beverly; two daughters and a son; three grandchildren; and two sisters.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Gaby Hoffmann, Albert Cheng, Alexandra Billings,

    'Transparent' Team Reflects on Series Finale Without Jeffrey Tambor

    Friday night’s premiere of the series finale of “Transparent” at L.A. Live’s Regal theater felt like a family reunion for the Pfefferman clan. Matriarch Judith Light embraced each one of her TV children (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass) and guest stars from previous seasons (Cherry Jones, Melora Hardin, Bradley Whitford) who also turned [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Pom Klementieff poses at the launch

    Marvel Cinematic Universe Star Pom Klementieff Talks Disney-Fox Merger, X-Men Dreams

    Pom Klementieff may have entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” followed by appearances in the last two “Avengers” movies, but that wasn’t her original superhero plan. “My dream was to be in X-Men,” she told Variety on Thursday at the Chanel dinner for its new fragrance Gabrielle [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow to Be Honored at amfAR Gala Los Angeles

    Gwyneth Paltrow and art dealer Larry Gagosian are set to be honored at the 2019 amfAR Gala Los Angeles. The American Foundation for AIDS Research announced that the two honorees will receive the Award of Courage for their commitment in the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as for their other humanitarian efforts. Christina [...]

  • David Mandel Sam Richardson

    'The Handmaid's Tale,' 'Veep,' 'When They See Us' Writers Honored at Emmy Nominees Reception

    Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), David Mandel (“Veep”) and Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) were among those honored at the Television Academy’s Emmy nominees writers reception on Tuesday night in North Hollywood. There, ceremony hosts, “Escape at Dannemora” star Eric Lange and “Veep’s” Sam Richardson, kept the show moving by tossing in [...]

  • Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen

    Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart Return for 13th Annual Stand Up for Heroes

    Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Hasan Minhaj will again Stand Up for Heroes. Comedian Ronny Chieng will join the multi-talented group on stage for a night of music and comedy in honor of military veterans and their families at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. The 13th annual event [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content