Obituary: Paul Mazursky, 1930-2014

Paul Mazursky

Paul Mazursky, 1930-2014

I was saddened to hear about the passing of filmmaker/actor Paul Mazursky, who died of pulmonary arrest earlier today, He was 84.

A five-time Academy Award nominee who wrote and directed the majority of his 17 films, Mazursky zeroed in on contemporary male-female relationships in most of his works, which include Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Harry and Tonto (1974), An Unmarried Woman (1978), Tempest (1982) and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986).

Mazursky began his career as an actor in the early Fifties, appearing in a slew of television series including The Untouchables and The Twilight Zone, as well as one of Stanley Kubrick’s earliest feature films, 1953’s Fear and Desire. Though writing and directing films took precedence from the late Sixties onward, he still popped up regularly on screens big and small over the years.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Mazursky back in 2007 on the eve of the DVD release of his 1973 film Blume in Love. He was lively, charming gentleman and a pleasure to speak with, even if only for a few minutes.

Check it out:


Paul Mazursky is a talkative guy. A talkative, funny guy. I discovered that last week when I had the opportunity to speak with the filmmaker/actor on the phone about the DVD release of his 1973 film Blume in Love, a serious-comic examination of an L.A. divorce lawyer named Blume (George Segal) and his complicated relationship with his ex-wife Nina (Susan Anspach).

As I humbly like to think of myself as another talkative, funny guy (well, the former, at the very least), I wasn’t surprised that our chat was filled with a whole lot of interruptions as we found ourselves frequently talking over each other.

Our conversational jumble included thoughts on L.A. vs. New York (the Brooklyn-born Mazursky was bi-coastal for 15 years, but now has a permanent resident on the West Coast), his feelings about studio executives (“I’ve got two or three scripts that should be made, but they just don’t know.”), and how he mostly recognized today via a supporting role he had on a premium cable TV show a few years back. (“When people come up to me, I always think it’s going to be for one of my films, but it’s because I was shot dead on The Sopranos.”)

As for Blume in Love, Mazursky has a deep fondness for the film, which he also wrote.

“I saw it last night for the first time in many years and I found myself very emotionally involved,” said Mazursky, acknowledging that film’s depiction of women at the time of the women’s liberation movement was a pre-cursor to one of his most successful movies, 1979’s An Unmarried Woman.

“And Shelley Winters’ character is a forerunner to The First Wives Club,” he added.

“I had been living in Europe for six months prior to making Blume and what it says about the women of that time was all about what I had encountered in Europe,” he said.

Mazursky is thrilled to see that Blume is finally coming out on disc, though he wishes he could have recorded a commentary track for it.

“They could have a commentary from George Segal, [co-star] Kris Kristofferson and myself, but it was too late once they scheduled it for release,” he said. “The decision to put it out now for the first time probably came from someone at Warner who must have wanted a title for a Valentine’s Day promotion and they saw that the poster had a heart on it!”

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.