Kempt bids a fond farewell to Sydney Pollack today, a filmmaker who made his name on restraint, subtle humanism and consummate professionalism. In short, a man in full. As his recent co-star George Clooney put it, “Sydney made the world a little better, movies a little better and even dinner a little better. A tip of the hat to a class act. He will be missed.”
Often pegged as middlebrow, Pollack never quite fit in with his contemporaries, whether in his dedication to Old Hollywood style or his preference for acting and character-based storytelling over formal innovation. As an actor, he stuck to a specific type: a calm, occasionally venal anchor to the chaos around him. It’s only natural that he would be an appealing figure to 1970s America.
Although he’s best known for *Tootsie*, the perennial candidate for the funniest movie of its era, Pollack was at his best with more suspenseful fare, like the classic spy film *Three Days of the Condor*—featuring a fugitive Robert Redford making the most of a peacoat, oxford shirt, jeans and a blazer—as well as the lesser-seen *The Yakuza*, a Paul Schraeder gem featuring the unlikely confluence of Robert Mitchum, katana fighting, and clothing that could only have been worn in 1974.