Ronald Schwary isn't exactly a household name, but for movie fans, he probably should be. He's produced some absolutely classic films including Tootsie, Scent of a Woman and Ordinary People, for which he won the Academy Award. Schwary had to retire from producing in 2015 after being diagnosed with a rare neurological autonomic disorder. Unfortunately, the accomplished director has succumbed to the disorder and passed away at the age of 76.
Ronald Schwary frequently worked with director Sydney Pollack, producing six films with him over the course of 20 years, starting with The Electric Horseman in 1979 and ending with Random Hearts with Harrison Ford in 1999. In addition to working on film, he also produced television including series such as Tour of Duty, Now and Again and Medium.
The path through Hollywood for Ronald Schwary reads like a who's who of Hollywood history. According to THR, He made his first trip to Los Angeles after exchanging letters with Cecil B. DeMille, the director of his favorite film, The Ten Commandments. When he arrived, he discovered the accomplished director was in the hospital, so they never actually met, though they continued to correspond. When Schwary graduated from USC, his friend, John Wayne, paid the fee for him to take the Director's Guild examination. He failed the test the first time but passed on his second try.
As a director or assistant director, Schwary worked on numerous episodes of television, including assisting with the pilot episode of MASH for which he would win a Director's Guild of America award with director Gene Reynolds.
Scwary would go on to work with the likes of Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino in the various films he would produce. The pinnacle coming in 1980 with Ordinary People. The film would be nominated for six Oscars at the 1981 ceremony and would win four of them, including a Best Director award for Robert Redford, a Best Supporting Actor Award for Timothy Hutton, and Best Picture, which was won by the film's producer, Ronald Schwary.
It feels like we're writing a lot more obituaries than we used to, while some are certainly connected to the ongoing pandemic, many are not. It seems we're just losing a generation of great filmmakers. Certainly, somebody like Ronald Schwary will never be completely forgotten, his connection to a several great films means the work will live on, but it's no less heartbreaking to lose the people who made that work.
Ronald Schwary is survived by his two sons, Neil and Brian, as well as two brothers and a sister. Our thoughts are with his family in this difficult time.
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