Director, Editor, and Actor. Nationality: American. Born: Columbus, Georgia. 4 January 1916. Family: Brother of the actress Helen Parrish. Career: 1920s—began career as a child actor in such films asMother Machree, City Lights, and Our Gang comedies; 1930s—became assistant editor, then sound editor; 1940s—served with John Ford as cameraman and editor on documentaries during World War II; 1947—won Academy Award for co-editing Robert Rossen's Body and Soul, his first feature after the war; 1948—nominated for second Academy Award for co-editing All the King's Men, again for Rossen; 1951—directorial debut with Cry Danger; 1976—published first book of memoirs, Growing Up in Hollywood; 1988—second memoirs book published, Hollywood Doesn't Live Here Anymore; 1983—last film, Mississippi Blues, a documentary made with Bertrand Tavernier. Awards: Academy Award for Body and Soul, 1947. Died: In Southampton, New York, 4 December 1995.
Films as Actor:
Mother Machree; Four Sons (Ford)
The Iron Mask (Dwan)
Men without Women (Ford); All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone); Up the River (Ford); The Right to Love (Wallace)
City Lights (Chaplin)
Dr. Bull (Ford)
Judge Priest (Ford)
The Whole Town's Talking (Ford); The Informer (Ford)
The Prisoner of Shark Island (Ford)
Films as Sound Editor:
Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford); Drums along the Mohawk (Ford)
The Grapes of Wrath (Ford); The Long Voyage Home (Ford)
Tobacco Road (Ford)
Films as Editor:
Mary of Scotland (Ford) (asst)
The Battle of Midway (doc, short)
December 7th (doc, short)
Body and Soul (Rossen) (co)
A Double Life (Cukor); No Minor Vices (Milestone)
All the King's Men (Rossen) (co); Caught (Ophüls)
Of Men and Music (concert feature) (co)
Films as Director:
Cry Danger; The Mob
The San Francisco Story; Assignment-Paris; My Pal Gus
Rough Shoot (Shoot First)
The Purple Plain
Fire Down Below
Saddle the Wind
The Wonderful Country
In the French Style (À la française) (+ co-pr)
Up from the Beach
Casino Royale (co-d with several others); The Bobo
Doppelganger (Journey to the Far Side of the Sun)
A Town Called Bastard (A Town Called Hell)
The Marseille Contract (The Destructors)
Pays d'Octobre (Mississippi Blues) (co-d with Bertrand Tavernier—doc)
By PARRISH: books—
Growing Up in Hollywood, 1976.
Hollywood Doesn't Live Here Anymore, 1988.
By PARRISH: articles—
On Preston Sturges, in Positif (Paris), December 1977/January 1978.
On Max Ophüls, in Positif (Paris), July/August 1980.
On John Ford, in American Film (Washington, D.C.), July/August 1985.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), April 1986.
On The Paper Chase, in American Film (Washington, D.C.), March 1988.
"University of Southern California Film School," in Positif (Paris), June 1994.
"O.K. Freddie," in Audience (Simi Valley), August/September 1996.
On PARRISH: article—
Film Comment (New York), March/April 1977.
Film Dope (Nottingham), April 1994.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 11 December 1995.
Obituary in Classic Images (Muscatine), January 1996.
Obituary in Audience (Simi Valley), February/March 1996.
* * *
A lifetime spent in the film world ended when director/editor/actor Robert Parrish died in December of 1995. He was clearly a man who loved the movies. In his lifetime working with such directing greats as John Ford and Robert Rossen, he edited powerful dramas and shot and edited World War II documentaries then unequaled for authenticity.
He began his career as a child actor, working with Charlie Chaplin in City Lights as well as in Ford productions and Our Gang comedies. He continued with Ford, first as an assistant editor, then as editor and cameraman with Ford's O.S.S. department during World War II, making landmark documentaries of the U.S. war efforts.
He received his only Academy Award for co-editing duties on Rossen's Body and Soul and a follow-up nomination for co-editing Rossen's All the King's Men. Initial critical response was enthusiastic to his directorial debut, Cry Danger, an action drama that was generic but exciting. Throughout his career, he would receive the best critical response to other genre films, such as the military drama, The Purple Plain, and the Western, Saddle the Wind. With writer Irwin Shaw, Parrish co-produced In the French Style, a lightweight drama that enthused Parrish but failed to excite critics. Leaving the United States for Europe, Parrish found most of his sixties and seventies work "second rate and getting second rater," in his own words. Neither critics nor audiences would argue with his assessment as he churned out dull thrillers, comedies, and even an Italian Western.
His final film, completed upon his return to the United States, was a documentary that touched on civil rights, Mississippi Blues, co-directed with an old friend, Bertrand Tavernier. The film, while considered heartfelt, was also found to be somewhat listless and received little attention. Other than his excellent editing work and early directing, Parrish may be most remembered as storyteller from his two books of Hollywood memoirs.
—Allen Grant Richards