Frank Perry

Frank Joseph Perry Jr.[1] (August 21, 1930 – August 29, 1995) was an American stage director and filmmaker. His 1962 independent film David and Lisa earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (written by his then-wife Eleanor Perry). The couple collaborated on five more films, including The Swimmer, Diary of a Mad Housewife, and the Emmy Award–nominated A Christmas Memory, based on a short story by Truman Capote. Perry went on to form Corsair Pictures, privately financed by United Artists Theatres, which produced Miss Firecracker and A Shock to the System, then folded.[2][3] His later films include Mommie Dearest and the documentary On the Bridge, about his battle with prostate cancer.

Frank Perry
Frank Perry.jpg
Frank Joseph Perry Jr.

(1930-08-21)August 21, 1930
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedAugust 29, 1995(1995-08-29) (aged 65)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma materThe Actors Studio
University of Miami
OccupationDirector, filmmaker
Years active1955–1992
EmployerWestport Country Playhouse
(m. 1958; div. 1971)

(m. 1977; div. 1992)

Virginia Brush Ford
(m. 1992)
RelativesKaty Perry (niece)

Early lifeEdit

Frank Joseph Perry Jr. was born in New York City, to stockbroker Frank Joseph Perry Sr. and Pauline E. Schwab, who worked at Alcoholics Anonymous.[1] As a teenager, Frank Jr. began pursuing his interest in the theater with a job as a parking lot attendant for the Westport Country Playhouse in nearby Westport, Connecticut. He attended the University of Miami. Frank also studied under Lee Strasberg in New York. He produced several plays at Westport Country Playhouse and then turned for a time to producing television documentaries.[4]


A veteran of the Korean War, he returned to the entertainment industry after being discharged and made his directorial debut in 1962 with the low-budget drama film David and Lisa. Based on the novel by Theodore Isaac Rubin, the screenplay was written by his wife, Eleanor Rosenfeld, who received a nomination for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay. A character study of two emotionally disturbed teenagers, the film was successful at the box office and met with much critical acclaim, earning him a nomination for an Academy Award for Directing. Both Perrys would eventually join the select group of non-actors awarded membership in Actors Studio.[5] Perry went on to direct and produce a number of films, many based on literary sources or with strong literary associations, including The Swimmer, (1968) based on a John Cheever story' Last Summer (1969)' and Trilogy (1969), written by Truman Capote.[citation needed]

Perry is known for his character studies, such as Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970). That film earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Carrie Snodgress, and Play It as It Lays (1972), starring Tuesday Weld, brought her a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination. Both of these films Perry produced and directed, but he is probably best remembered for directing the biographical drama Mommie Dearest, an adaptation of a biography by actress Joan Crawford's adoptive daughter. The film became a cult classic despite mixed reviews from critics; it also won the Razzie Award for worst picture, and Frank Perry was nominated for worst director, while actress Faye Dunaway received the Razzie for her performance.[citation needed]

Some of Perry's film-related material and personal papers are held at the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives, a collection to which scholars and media experts from around the world today have full access.[6]

Personal life and deathEdit

In 1958, Frank married his first wife Eleanor, who was 15 years his senior. Frank and Eleanor collaborated on many screen projects, including screenwriting the Academy Award-nominated 1962 David and Lisa.[7] They divorced in 1971 on grounds of incompatibility.[8] In 1979, Eleanor Perry wrote the novel Blue Pages, based on their relationship. She died of cancer two years later, at age 66.

In 1977, Perry married Barbara Goldsmith, founding editor of New York magazine and book author (Little Gloria...Happy at Last), whom he divorced in 1992. Soon after, he married his Aspen ski instructor, 22-years-younger Virginia Brush Ford, on June 15, 1992. His sister is pastor Mary Christine Perry, the wife of pastor Maurice Keith Hudson and mother of singers Katy Perry and David Hudson.[9][10]

Perry died of prostate cancer on August 29, 1995, eight days after his 65th birthday, at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.[11] His final film, On the Bridge (1992), is an autobiographical documentary about his illness. His ashes were scattered on the mountains of Aspen, Colorado, where he lived the last three years of his life.[12]

Author Justin Bozung, who has been researching Perry's life since 2013, is currently writing an official biography titled Character Is Story: The Life & Films of Frank Perry. The book is due to be released in 2022.[13][14]



Title Year Credited as Production Company Distributor Ref
Director Producer Writer
David and Lisa 1962 Yes Lisa and David Company Continental Distributing
Ladybug Ladybug 1963 Yes Yes Francis Productions United Artists
The Swimmer 1968 Yes Yes Horizon Pictures Columbia Pictures
Last Summer 1969 Yes Yes Francis Productions Allied Artists
Trilogy 1969 Yes Yes Francis Productions Allied Artists
Diary of a Mad Housewife 1970 Yes Yes Frank Perry Films Universal Pictures
Doc 1971 Yes Yes Frank Perry Films United Artists
Play It as It Lays 1972 Yes Yes Frank Perry Films Universal Pictures
Man on a Swing 1974 Yes Jaffilms Paramount Pictures
Rancho Deluxe 1975 Yes Elliott Kastner Productions United Artists
Mommie Dearest 1981 Yes Yes Frank Yablans Presentations Paramount Pictures
Monsignor 1982 Yes Frank Yablans Presentations 20th Century Fox
Compromising Positions 1985 Yes Yes C.P. Productions Paramount Pictures
Hello Again 1987 Yes Yes Touchstone Pictures Buena Vista Pictures
Miss Firecracker 1989 Yes Corsair Pictures Corsair Pictures
A Shock to the System 1990 Yes Corsair Pictures Corsair Pictures
On the Bridge 1992 Yes Yes Yes Frank Perry Films Frank Perry Films


Series Episode Year Credited as Production Company Network Ref
Director Producer Writer
Playwright at Work All episodes 1961 Yes National Educational Television and Radio Center
ABC Stage 67 A Christmas Memory 1966 Yes Yes Francis Productions American Broadcasting Company
TV Movie Among the Paths to Eden 1967 Yes Yes Francis Productions American Broadcasting Company
TV Movie The Thanksgiving Visitor 1967 Yes Yes Francis Productions American Broadcasting Company
TV Movie Miriam 1970 Yes Yes Francis Productions American Broadcasting Company
TV Movie Dummy 1979 Yes The Königsberg Company Columbia Broadcasting System
Skag Pilot 1980 Yes Lorimar Productions National Broadcasting Company
TV Movie J.F.K.: A One-Man Show 1984 Yes Public Broadcasting Service Public Broadcasting Service


  1. ^ a b "Mrs. Frank J. Perry, 56, Alcoholics Anonymous Aide". The New York Times. March 13, 1965.
  2. ^ Fleming, Charles (March 15, 1988). "Frank Perry to head new film company". Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
  3. ^ "Lost & Found: Name: Frank Perry Description: Film Director Last Seen: On the ski lift". Variety. January 4, 1993.
  4. ^ "Perry, Frank". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  5. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Strasberg Takes Over: 1951–1955". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co. p. 93. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. Various directors and playwrights, including Frank Corsaro, Martin Fried, Jack Garfein, Michal V. Gazzo, Charles Gordone, Israel Horovitz, Arthur Penn, Eleanor Perry, Frank Perry, Sidney Pollack, Mark Rydell, Alan Schneider, and John Stix, have also been granted membership on the basis of their contributions to the life and work of The Actors Studio, as have certain other non-performers, such as Liska March and Carl Schaeffer.
  6. ^ "Cinema Archives". Wesleyan University. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  7. ^ Oliver, Myrna (September 1, 1995). "Obituaries : Frank Perry; Director of 'David and Lisa'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  8. ^ Lawson, Carol (March 17, 1981). "Eleanor Perry Dies". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Robinson, Lisa (May 3, 2011). "Katy Perry's Grand Tour". Vanity Fair. Advance Publications.
  10. ^ Friedlander, Noam (2012). Katy Perry. Sterling Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4549-0364-2.
  11. ^ Gussow, Mel (August 31, 1995). "Frank Perry, 65, the Director Who Filmed 'David and Lisa'". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  12. ^ Smith, Liz (September 7, 1995). "Douglas Behaves to Save Marriage". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  13. ^ "Kool Kat of the Week: Author and Filmmaker Frank Perry's Official Biographer Justin Bozung Dishes on Atlanta's Frank Perry Retrospective Presented by Videodrome". ATLRetro. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  14. ^ "Tough Guys Don't Dance". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved January 17, 2020.

Further readingEdit

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