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Polanski, Roman


POLANSKI, ROMAN (Liebling ; 1933– ), film director, writer, and actor. Born in Paris, Polanski went to Poland with his parents at the age of three. During World War ii, he managed to escape the ghetto, while his parents were sent to a concentration camp, where his mother died. As a young boy he survived in the Polish countryside, living with various Catholic families. In 1945 he was reunited with his father.

In the 1950s, still in Poland, he took up acting and also became a well-known filmmaker. He moved to Paris and made two films in England – Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-sac (1966) – which won him international acclaim. Polanski also won several international awards for his film Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958). Among his other films are Mammals (1961); Knife in the Water (Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, 1962); and Rosemary's Baby (Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, 1968), which showed his mastery of suspense and the macabre, as well as The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), starring his wife, Sharon Tate.

In 1968 Polanski had gone to Hollywood – until 1969, when the circumstances of his life took on the nightmarish quality of his films. While Polanski was out of town his wife, who was eight months pregnant with their first child, as well as four of their friends, were brutally murdered at a party at their home by the Charles Manson gang. Polanski returned to Europe and continued to make films there, such as Macbeth (1971) and What? (1973). In 1974 he returned to the U.S. and made Chinatown (Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Best Director, 1974) and The Tenant (1976).

However, in 1977 he fled the country again, this time to avoid being incarcerated on a charge of statutory rape after having been involved in a sex scandal with a 13-year-old model. Living in Paris, Polanski continued to make films, such as Tess (Oscar nomination for Best Director, 1979), Pirates (1986), Frantic (1988), Bitter Moon (1992), Death and the Maiden (1994), The Ninth Gate (1999), and The Pianist (Oscar for Best Director, 2002).

He also acted, most notably in The Fearless Vampire Killers; What?; Chinatown; The Tenant; the French film A Pure Formality (1994); and the Polish film The Revenge (2002).

His autobiographical Roman by Polanski was published in 1984.

add. bibliography:

J. Parker, Polanski (1993); V. Wexman, Roman Polanski (1985); B. Leaming, Polanski, a Biography: The Film-maker as Voyeur (1981); T. Kiernan, Repulsion: The Life and Times of Roman Polanski (1980); I. Butler, The Cinema of Roman Polanski (1970).

[Jonathan Licht /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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