Paul Mazursky, a five-time Oscar-nominee who wrote and directed admired movies from Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice to Down and Out in Beverly Hills, died Monday of pulmonary cardiac arrest, according to a family spokesperson. He was 84.
Mazursky was a successful actor in the 1950s, starring in many television series, as well as Blackboard Jungle and Stanley Kubrick’s first film, Fear and Desire. He segued into writing, scripting episodes of The Danny Kaye Show and The Monkees. He also wrote the 1968 Peter Sellers film, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, and then made his directorial debut on Bob & Carol, which earned him his first Oscar nomination and additional nods for actors Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon. The film was also a box-office success.
In the 1970s, he directed and earned two more Oscar nominations for writing Harry and Tonto and An Unmarried Woman, the former which won Art Carney his 1975 Best Actor Oscar. “[Mazursky] was a cultural anthropologist, tagging love and following the damage left in the name of amorous misadventure,” wrote Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times in 2001. “There was probably no writer and director more in love with love and its power to heal and disrupt since the heyday of the screwball comedy.”
Mazursky went on to direct Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson (1984), and Enemies: A Love Story, which earned him his final Oscar nod in 1990. In later years, he was a favorite cameo and guest star, popping up as Mel Brooks’ pal during season 4 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, an episode of The Sopranos, and films like Love Affair and Bulworth.
A master raconteur, Mazursky was an in-demand contributor in numerous classic Hollywood documentaries, including Searching for Orson, The Magic of Fellini, and Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures.
The Brooklyn-born Mazursky is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Betsy, and a daughter, Jill, a screenwriter. Another daughter, Meg, passed away in 2009.