Schultz, Michael A. 1938–
Michael A. Schultz 1938–
Stage, film, and television director
“It’s a comedy,” director Michael Schultz told the Kansas City Star upon the release of his 1991 film Livin’ Large! “A com-e-dee. If [moviegoers] agree that the overall message is positive, that’s the overriding thing.” The “overriding thing” in director Michael Schultz’s exceptionally productive career has also been comedy. From his gritty—and sometimes less than believable—urban explorations like Cooley High, Car Wash, and Livin’ Large! to ghetto fantasies like Krush Groove and Disorderlies, Schultz has been an early and consistent black voice in the white-dominated American film industry.
Born November 10, 1938, in Milwaukee’s tough inner core, Schultz was raised by his grandmother and his no-nonsense mother, Katherine Schultz, a woman who held high standards for her children. “Mother taught us kids that whatever we did, if we did it better than anybody else we would get over,” Schultz related in the Milwaukee Journal.
Katherine Schultz took her son to plays as soon as he was old enough to understand them. Not satisfied with the neighborhood public schools, she sent Michael to the prestigious St. Benedict the Moore parochial elementary school and, later, Milwaukee’s Riverside High School. Schultz was one of the few black students at Riverside, and he recalled for the Milwaukee Journal how people reacted to his color. “I’m light-skinned, and I have blue eyes. People think that the darker you are, the dumber you are. So people expected more of me, and I think you rise to meet people’s expectations.”
But Schultz, whose last name came from the Kentucky plantation owner who ruled his ancestors, was also the victim of the kind of casual racism common in big cities. He told the Journal that he remembered being stopped by Milwaukee police, “for no reason, just because I was young and black.”
Following high school, Schultz entered the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he studied aeronautical engineering with hopes of becoming an astronaut. After troubles with calculus, he dropped out and returned to Milwaukee, finding work at a foundry. He then entered Marquette University and took up the study of drama under Father John J. Walsh.
Walsh’s philosophy had a strong influence on Schultz, who was already thinking about directing films. Schultz told Ebony that Walsh had “a very strong theater ethic in terms of: You as
Born November 10, 1938, in Milwaukee, Wl; son of Leo (an insurance salesman) and Katherine (a factory worker) Schultz; married wife, Gloria (an actress; stage name, Lauren Jones). Education: Attended the University of Wisconsin; received B.F.A. in theater from Marquette University.
Director of theater productions, 1966—, and television and film productions, 1971—. Stage directing credits include Waiting for Godot, 1966; Song of the Lusitanian Bogey, Negro Ensemble Company, NY and London, 1968; Kongi’s Harvest, 1968; God Is a (Guess What?), 1968-69; Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, Broadway debut, 1969; The Reckoning, 1969; Every Night When the Sun Goes Down, 1969; The Dream on Monkey Mountain, 1969-71; Operation Sidewinder, 1970; Sambo, 1970; Woyzeck, 1970; The Three Sisters, 1973; Thoughts, 1973; The Poison Tree, 1973; The Cherry Orchard, 1973; What the Winesellers Buy, 1974; Mule Bone, 1991-92. Film credits include Cooley High, 1975; Car Wash, 1976; Greased Lightning, 1977; Which Way Is Up?, 1977; Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1978; Scavenger Hunt, 1979; Carbon Copy, 1981; Bustin’ Loose, 1983; The Last Dragon, 1985; Krush Groove (with Doug McHenry), 1985; Disorderlies (with George Jackson), 1987; Livin’ Large, 1991. Also director of episodes of television series and of television pilots, movies, and specials, including the PBS-TV presentation Ceremonies of Dark Old Men and an adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
Selected awards: Obie Award for best direction, 1968, for the Off-Broadway production of Song of the Lusitanian Bogey; Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award, both 1969, for Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?; Oscar Micheaux Award, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, 1991; Christopher Award for Ceremonies of Dark Old Men.
Addresses: P.O. Box 1940, Santa Monica, CA 90406.
a theater person have the ears of a lot of people, and rather than be in it for glory or self-gratification, you have a great responsibility to uplift the audience, not only to entertain them; to get people to see some things about themselves or about other people that they never thought about.…And hopefully they had a good time while they were being educated or they won’t come back.”
Schultz left school prior to graduation. In 1964 he moved to New York City, where he took a stab at acting before landing his first professional directing job two years later. The young black director soon became one of the founders of the highly acclaimed Negro Ensemble Company. “There was no black theater in New York at the time,” he later told the Houston Chronicle. “I had seen [French writer] Jean Genet’s The Blacks and talked with a group of people about how badly we needed a place for blacks to develop theatrically.” A grant from the Ford Foundation “started the whole explosion of black theater. At the time there was no black audience because there were no plays they could relate to. It was hard to build up the audience, but we did it.”
Schultz eventually became a principle director with the Negro Ensemble, winning several theatrical awards along the way. Among his credits was Al Pacino’s Broadway debut Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie?, which also starred Schultz’s wife, actress Lauren Jones. But despite his stage successes, Schultz retained his cinematic ambitions. He directed a well-received PBS production of Lorraine Hansberry’s autobiographical work To Be Young, Gifted and Black (which was adapted for the stage by her husband, Robert Nemiroff) and later returned to PBS to do Ceremonies of Dark Old Men.
Schultz decided to make the move to Hollywood after seeing Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the 1971 breakthrough film directed by Melvin Van Peebles. “Sweetback proved to Hollywood that there was an underserved portion of the filmgoing market,” Schultz told Time. “And when I saw it, I said, ‘I can do that.’” The success of Sweet Sweetback ‘s Baadasssss Song unleashed a wave of black-oriented films such as Superfly and Shaft that swept a generation of African Americans into Hollywood. Though these efforts were later criticized for the way they portrayed people of color, Schultz and others appreciated “blaxploitation’s” positive effect on the industry. “In a lot of ways,” he told the Houston Chronicle, “the blaxploitation period was good, because it put a lot of blacks to work. And it made people like me think: ‘Hey I can do that too’”
Schultz spent his early days in Hollywood directing episodes of television series like Toma, Starsky & Hutch, The Rockford Files, and Baretta. Finally, in 1974, after dabbling in film for a couple of years, he got the chance to direct a feature. Working on $750,000 budget, he made Cooley High for American International Pictures.
Cooley High was a popular success, grossing over $13 million. The film explored the segregated world of an early 1960s Chicago vocational school. Some critics called it a black American Graffiti, but others viewed it as unique to the black experience. “Cooley High, ” Jack Slater wrote in the New York Times, “documents perhaps that last moment in modern American history—1964—when it was possible for young blacks to see their color as simply one of the components of their personalities.” Schultz himself saw the film in a more personal way. He told the Houston Chronicle: “Cooley High was the life story of the writer, and it touched on a lot of stuff that I grew up with. It was real life.”
With a bankable first feature in his briefcase, Schultz began taking on quality projects with black stars. Car Wash, an earthy comedy centering on the escapades of employees at a Los Angeles car wash, was the first of several Richard Pryor pictures directed by Schultz. Despite Universal’s reluctance to book it in white theaters upon its release in 1976, Car Wash earned $14 million.
In 1977, Schultz was called in to rescue Greased Lightning, a Pryor vehicle bogged down with directorial problems. A biographical comedy-drama on the life of Wendell Scott, the first black auto racing champion, Greased Lightning was released to negative reviews. More successful was the 1977 Pryor film Which Way Is Up? A remake of Italian director Lina Wertmuller’s farce The Seduction of Mimi, Which Way Is Up? grossed $19 million, more than any other “black film” of the time. Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it “a cultural mess,” that was “very funny in bits and pieces.” Newsweek writer David Ansen wrote that Schultz had “the raunchy vitality—and the comic subtlety—of a subway graffiti artist.”
After making his mark as a director of comedies with black stars, Schultz was recruited by entertainment mogul Robert Stigwood to direct Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a musical based on songs by English rock legends the Beatles. With a $12 million budget and such 1970s stars including the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, Sgt. Pepper was the largest film ever put into the hands of a black director.
Since the songs on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album are not unified by theme or plot, Schultz and scriptwriter Henry Edwards had to construct their story about a band in a mythical small town. “Everything springs from the music,” he told Ebony, “the pacing, the rhythm, all the characters. But it is a very unusual kind of story format because it doesn’t follow a straight plot-line like Tommy or Jesus Christ, Superstar because in those the plot was in the lyrics. In this one, a lot of hard work had to go into making a story around all this music that was totally different.”
Unfortunately for Schultz, Sgt. Pepper bombed. The Village Voice called it “the official disaster of the season,” while Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, “This isn’t a movie. It’s a business deal set to music.” Schultz’s career then took a nosedive—a fact he attributes to racism. “White directors can have big failures, like Francis Ford Coppola, and they’ll get another chance,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “But black directors have one failure and they’re finished.”
He kept working during the late 1970s and early 1980s, directing films like Scavenger Hunt, Carbon Copy, and numerous movies for television. But the Sgt. Pepper fiasco—combined with Hollywood’s general retreat from black cinema after African American protests against negative “blaxploitation” stereotypes—kept him away from the good projects. “I was in a major burnout,” he told Time. “The projects from then on didn’t come like they did for white directors who failed.”
Schultz didn’t have another major success until 1985 when he directed The Last Dragon, a send-up of martial arts films that the Chicago Sun Times called “outrageously funny.” Like many of his early comedies, The Last Dragon drew its humor from observations of ghetto life. A Village Voice reviewer lauded its lampooning of “the way blacks dip into other cultures for their role models the same way other cultures try to appropriate black cool.” Even though some critics faulted the film for its shameless campiness, The Last Dragon did, to some extent, rehabilitate Schultz’s Hollywood standing.
Schultz’s films from the late 1980s were rap music extravaganzas. Nineteen-eighty-five’s Krush Groove, featuring rappers Run-DMC, the Fat Boys, and Sheila E. was criticized for its loose plot. More to the critics’ liking was 1987’s Disorderlies, a Three Stooges-like farce starring the Fat Boys, who are charged with caring for a cantankerous Palm Beach millionaire. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Disorderlies “a spirited mess disproving the wisdom that good things come in small packages.”
Schultz’s stock really began to rise in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when black directors like Spike Lee and John Singleton showed Hollywood that there was money to be made in so-called “black films.” Seeing green rather than black or white, movie studios began giving black directors better projects—projects that focused on the reality of the black experience. “The minds are opening in Hollywood to an awareness that there are substantial issues from the black point of view,” Schultz told the Houston Chronicle. “Years ago, they couldn’t afford to deal with things like survival in the ghetto, cultural identity and self-image. Now they have found out they can entertain people, talk about real issues and make money. That’s always what concerns Hollywood the most.”
Schultz’s contribution to what some called a “new wave of Black cinema” was 1991’s Livin’ Large!, an updated version of the kind of comedy that first gained him recognition. Livin’ Large! is a morality play about a young black man whose dream of being a TV news reporter becomes a reality. One day he picks up a fallen newsman’s microphone and walks into a sniper’s lair. From there he enters the sometimes slimy, white-dominated world of broadcasting, losing touch with his African American roots. “It’s about making very human choices,” Schultz told Time. “It’s something we all have to do, finding out what price society makes us pay.”
The author of Livin’ Large! wanted to have his hero killed at the end of the film to pay for his sins, but Schultz disagreed. Echoing the teachings of Father Walsh, the director wanted the story to have an uplifting ending. “It’s a fantastic enough story as it is, and I wanted kids in the ghetto to believe that their lives can change for the better,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “Right or wrong, we believe in the images we see on the screen, and they need to be positive.”
The New York Times called Livin ‘Large! “one of the best pop comedies of the season” while the Chicago Sun Times described it as showing the “same funky, loose spontaneity of Car Wash, while displaying a surprising knack for precise comic timing.” But Emerge contributor Armond White saw a deeper side to Livin’ Large! and stated, “It took a black Hollywood veteran … to make the one movie that analyzed the ethical paradox in black media.” Deeming Livin’ Large! “perceptive about…issues of identity and political sellout,” White added, “[Schultz’s effort] poked holes in the illusion of black success preferred by today’s fashionable young purveyors of stereotype; the film was attacked or ignored by black journalists wincing from its well-aimed barbs.”
Since directing Livin’ Large! Schultz has spent much time shuttling between the East and West Coasts. He continues to direct works for both theater and film, and his varied projects feature black, white, and integrated casts. In 1991 he directed the New York debut of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston’s Mule Bone, which has been called the first true black comedy.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 6, 1991, p. N4.
Chicago Sun Times, August 17, 1987; September 20, 1991.
Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1985, p. 7J.
Ebony, September 1978.
Emerge, August 1992, pp. 41-42.
Essence, April 1984.
Houston Chronicle, August 18, 1991.
Kansas City Star, September 20, 1991.
Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1991, p. F19; February 23, 1991, p. F12.
Milwaukee Journal, January 5, 1992.
Newsweek, July 21, 1975; August 15, 1977.
New Yorker, February 25, 1991, p. 82.
New York Times, August 10, 1975; November 5, 1977; July 16, 1978; July 21, 1978; March 22, 1984; February 15, 1991, p. CI; September 20, 1991, p. C15; March 26, 1992, p. C22.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 15, 1987.
Time, June 17, 1991, p. 64.
Village Voice, July 31, 1978; April 2, 1985.
"Schultz, Michael A. 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/schultz-michael-1938-0
"Schultz, Michael A. 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/schultz-michael-1938-0
Schultz, Michael A. 1938–
Schultz, Michael A. 1938–
Born November 10, 1938, in Milwaukee, WI; son of Leo (an insurance salesman) and Katherine Frances (a factory worker; maiden name, Leslie) Schultz; married Gloria Jean Jones (an actress), December 6, 1965; children: Brandon (an actor), additional child. Education: Marquette University, B.F.A., theatre; also attended University of Wisconsin.
Agent—International Creative Management, 10250 Constellation Way, 9th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Director and producer.
African-American Steering Committee.
Obie Award, best direction, Village Voice, 1968, for Song of the Lusitanian Bogey; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best director of a dramatic play, and Drama Desk Award, outstanding director, 1969, both for Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?; Technical Grand Prize and Golden Palm Award nomination, Cannes Film Festival, 1977, both for Car Wash; honorary Ph.D., Emerson University, 1984; inductee, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, 1991; Oscar Micheaux Award, 1991; Lifetime Achievement Award, Miami International Coproduction Film Conference, 1992; Best American Film, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, American Black Film Festival Award, best film, 2004, Black Reel Award, best director—independent film, 2005, all for Woman Thou Art Loosed; Christopher Award, for Ceremonies of Dark Old Men.
Waiting for Godot, McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ, 1966.
Song of the Lusitanian Bogey, Negro Ensemble Company, St. Marks Playhouse, New York City, then London, both 1968.
Kongis Harvest, Negro Ensemble Company, St. Marks Playhouse, 1968.
God Is a (Guess What?), Negro Ensemble Company, St. Marks Playhouse, 1968-1969.
Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre, Waterford, CT, then Belasco Theatre, New York City, both 1969.
The Reckoning, St. Marks Playhouse, 1969.
Every Night When the Sun Goes Down, Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre, 1969.
The Dream on Monkey Mountain, Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre, 1969, then Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1970, later St. Marks Playhouse, 1971.
Operation Sidewinder, Vivian Beaumont Theatre, New York City, then Mark Taper Forum, both 1970.
Sambo, Mobile Theatre, 1970.
Woyzeck, St. Marks Playhouse, 1970.
The Three Sisters, Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, CT, 1973.
Thoughts, Westport Country Playhouse, then Theatre De Lys, New York City, both 1973.
The Poison Tree, Westport Country Playhouse, 1973.
The Cherry Orchard, Anspacher Theatre, New York City, 1973.
What the Winesellers Buy, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, then Vivian Beaumont Theatre, later New Theatre for Now, Los Angeles, all 1974.
Mulebone, Helen Hayes Public Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York City, 1991.
Stage Work; Other:
Stage manager, The Old Glory, American Place Theatre, 1964, then Theatre De Lys, both New York City, 1965.
Stage manager, Command Performance, Maidman Playhouse, New York City, 1966.
Lighting director, Daddy Goodness, Negro Ensemble Company, St. Marks Playhouse, New York City, 1968.
Francesco, "Benito Cereno," The Old Glory, American Place Theatre, 1964, then Theatre De Lys, both New York City, 1965.
Together for Days (also known as Black Cream), Olas, 1972.
Honeybaby, Honeybaby (also known as Honey Baby and Three Days in Beirut), Kelly/Jordan, 1974.
Cooley High, American International, 1975.
Car Wash, Universal, 1976.
Greased Lightning, Warner Bros., 1977.
Which Way Is Up?, Universal, 1977.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (also known as Banda de los corazones), Universal, 1978.
Scavenger Hunt, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1979.
Carbon Copy, Avco Embassy, 1981.
(Uncredited) Bustin' Loose, Universal, 1983.
The Last Dragon (also known as Berry Gordy's "The Last Dragon"), Tri-Star, 1985.
Krush Groove, Warner Bros., 1985.
Disorderlies, Warner Bros., 1987.
Livin' Large (also known as The Tapes of Dexter Jackson), Samuel Goldwyn/Night Life, 1991.
Woman Thou Art Loosed, Magnolia Pictures, 2004.
Film Work; Other:
Producer (with Doug McHenry), Krush Groove, Warner Bros., 1985.
Producer (with George Jackson), Disorderlies, Warner Bros., 1987.
Editor, The Show, 1995.
Executive producer, Phat Beach, 1996.
Editor, Ritual, 1999.
Television Work; Series:
Producer, Everwood (also known as Our New Life in Everwood), The WB, 2002.
Television Director; Movies:
Carbon Copy, 1981.
Benny's Place, ABC, 1982.
The Jerk, Too, 1984.
Timestalkers, CBS, 1986.
The Spirit, ABC, 1987.
Rock 'n Roll Mom, ABC, 1988.
Tarzan in Manhattan, CBS, 1989.
Jury Duty: The Comedy (also known as The Great American Sex Scandal), ABC, 1990.
Day-O (also known as Dayo), NBC, 1992.
Young Indiana Jones and the Hollywood Follies, Family Channel, 1994.
Young Indiana Jones: Travels with Father, Family Channel and ABC, 1996.
Killers in the House, USA Network, 1998.
My Last Love (also known as To Live For), ABC, 1999.
L.A. Law: The Movie, NBC, 2002.
Television Work; Specials:
Director, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, PBS, 1972.
Director, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, 1975.
Director and producer, Earth, Wind and Fire in Concert, HBO, 1982.
Director, For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story (also known as For Us the Living), 1983.
Editor, 112th & South Central: Through the Eyes of the Children, 1993.
Also directed Fade Out—The Erosion of Black Images in the Media (documentary).
Television Director; Pilots:
Change at 125th Street, CBS, 1974.
The Jerk, Too, NBC, 1984.
Hammer, Slammer, and Slade, ABC, 1990.
Shock Treatment, 1995.
Eli Stone, ABC, 2007.
Television Director; Episodic:
"The Madam," Toma, ABC, 1974.
Movin On, NBC, 1974.
"The Dark and Bloody Ground," The Rockford Files (also known as Jim Rockford, Private Investigator), NBC, 1974.
Baretta, ABC, 1975.
What's Happening!, 1976.
Starsky & Hutch, ABC, 1977.
"Sacred Hearts," Picket Fences, CBS, 1992.
"Frog Men," Picket Fences, CBS, 1993.
"Where There's a Will," L.A. Law, 1993.
Route 66, 1993.
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (also known as Brisco County Jr.), 1993.
Chicago Hope, CBS, 1994.
Sisters, NBC, 1994-96.
"Call Me Incontestable," Diagnosis Murder, CBS, 1995.
Promised Land (also known as Home of the Brave), CBS, 1996.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (also known as Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Series and Buffy), The WB, 1997.
Michael Hayes, CBS, 1997.
"The Guardian," JAG, CBS, 1997.
The Practice, ABC, 1997-2001.
Ally McBeal, Fox, 1997-2001.
Charmed, The WB, 1998.
Ally, Fox, 1999.
"Empty Pockets," Wasteland, 1999.
"Assassins," Felicity, The WB, 1999.
"The Depths," Felicity, The WB, 1999.
"Four Drops of Blood," Family Law, CBS, 1999.
"Cry Me a Liver," City of Angels, NBC, 2000.
"Chapter Seven," Boston Public, Fox, 2000.
"The Tutor," That's Life, CBS, 2000.
"Chick Flick," Charmed, The WB, 2000.
"Charmed Again: Part 1," Charmed, The WB, 2001.
Philly, ABC, 2001.
"To Walk on Wings," JAG, CBS, 2001.
"The Killer," JAG, CBS, 2001.
Everwood (also known as Our New Life in Everwood), The WB, 2002-2005.
"Today I Am a Man," Jack & Bobby, The WB, 2004.
Method & Red, Fox, 2004.
"Legacy," Jack & Bobby, The WB, 2005.
"Frank's Best," Cold Case, CBS, 2005.
"Celebrity Twin Could Hang: Film at Eleven," Pepper Dennis, The WB, 2006.
"The Great Stink," Gilmore Girls, The WB, 2006.
"Freedom," Eli Stone, ABC, 2007.
"The My Two Dads," The O.C., Fox, 2007.
"Valentine's Day Massacre," Brothers & Sisters, ABC, 2007.
"Baby Doe," Lincoln Heights, ABC Family, 2007.
"Secrets and Guys," October Road, ABC, 2007.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Acapulco Black Film Festival, 2000.
Focused Digizine #1, Focused Productions, 2004.
"Schultz, Michael A. 1938–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/schultz-michael-1938
"Schultz, Michael A. 1938–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved October 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/schultz-michael-1938