Michael Ritchie
Michael Brunswick Ritchie

(1938-11-28)November 28, 1938
Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States
DiedApril 16, 2001(2001-04-16) (aged 62)
Manhattan, New York, United States
OccupationFilm director
Notable work
Downhill Racer
The Candidate
The Bad News Bears
Fletch Lives
The Scout
Spouse(s)Jimmie B. Ritchie

Michael Brunswick Ritchie (November 28, 1938 – April 16, 2001) was an American film director, producer and writer of films with comical or satirical leanings, such as The Candidate and Smile. He scored commercial successes directing sports films like Downhill Racer and The Bad News Bears, and Chevy Chase's Fletch comedies.

Personal life

Ritchie was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the son of Patricia (née Graney) and Benbow Ferguson Ritchie. His family later moved to Berkeley, California, where his father was a professor of experimental psychology at the University of California at Berkeley[1] and his mother was the art and music librarian for the city. He attended Berkeley High School before becoming interested in film, and was accepted at Harvard University following high school. He told Robert Redford's biographer, author Michael Feeney Callan, that academic interest in film culture was the basis and drive for his career.[This quote needs a citation] In 1994, Ritchie purchased the hacienda-style house at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, in the Brentwood district of Los Angeles, where Marilyn Monroe died in 1962. He bought the property for $995,000 and it became his Los Angeles family base.[2] Also in 1994, Ritchie moved to Manhattan with his wife, Jimmie B. Ritchie, and daughters, Lillian (b. 1986) and Miriam (b. 1988). His additional children include a son, Steven (b. 1973); daughters Lauren (b. 1966) and Jessica (b. 1973), and two stepchildren, Nelly Bly and Billy Bly. His sister, Elsie Ritchie, acted in two of his films: The Candidate and Smile.


While at Harvard, Ritchie directed the original production of the Arthur Kopit play, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This led Robert Saudek to offer him a job, and Ritchie worked on several TV series prior to his film debut in 1969 with Downhill Racer.[3]

In 1970, Ritchie worked for John V. Tunney's senate election campaign; Tunney was the basis for Robert Redford's character in Ritchie's Oscar-winning film, The Candidate.[4]

As a director, Ritchie's output was highly varied. Although originally known for his sports films and satires in the 1970s, such as The Candidate and The Bad News Bears, he became more known for his broad comedies in the 1980s, such as Fletch.[5]

Ritchie also briefly pursued a career as an author, writing Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television, a nonfiction book about the experimental period of the television industry from the 1920s through the 1940s.[6]

Death and legacy

Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "It’s difficult to think of any director, ever, who had a more consistently uneven career."[5] According to Mark LeFanu, his films were recognized as "unpretentious, closely observed, finely textured works...there comes a point when, looking back, one sees that their consistency itself – consistent excellence – is telling us something: something about the way that cinema itself is able to move out and look around."[7] Ritchie died from complications related to prostate cancer.



Title Year Director Producer Writer Notes
Downhill Racer 1969 Yes No No Directorial debut
Prime Cut 1972 Yes No No
The Candidate Yes No No
Smile 1975 Yes Yes No
The Bad News Bears 1976 Yes No No
Semi-Tough 1977 Yes No No
The Bad News Bears Go to Japan 1978 No Yes No
An Almost Perfect Affair 1979 Yes No Story
The Island 1980 Yes No No
Divine Madness Yes No No Concert film
Student Bodies 1981 Yes Yes No Uncredited
The Survivors 1983 Yes No No
Fletch 1985 Yes No No
Wildcats 1986 Yes No No
The Golden Child Yes No No
The Couch Trip 1988 Yes No No
Fletch Lives 1989 Yes No No
Diggstown 1992 Yes No No
Innocent Blood No No No Role as "Night Watchman"
Cool Runnings 1993 No No Story
Cops & Robbersons 1994 Yes No No
The Scout Yes No No
The Fantasticks 1995 Yes Yes No Also music producer
A Simple Wish 1997 Yes No No

Television films

Title Year Director Writer Notes
The Theater of Tomorrow 1963 Yes No
The Sound of Anger 1968 Yes No
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom 1993 Yes No Voice role as "Minister"
Comfort, Texas 1997 Yes No
Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie 2002 No Story

Television series

Title Year Director Associate
Omnibus 1955 Yes No Segment "The Trial of St. Joan"
Profiles in Courage 1965 Yes Yes Director (2 episodes) / Producer (2 episodes)
Dr. Kildare Yes No 3 episodes
The Big Valley 1966 Yes No 3 episodes
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Yes No Episode "The Nowhere Affair"
Felony Squad Yes No 3 episodes
Run for Your Life 1966-67 Yes No 11 episodes
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre 1967 Yes No Episode "To Sleep, Perchance to Scream"
The Outsider 1967-68 Yes No 2 episodes
The Survivors 1969 Yes No 2 episodes
L'encyclopédie audio-visuelle 1993 Yes No Docmentary series; episode "Albert Einstein"
Beggars and Choosers 1999 Yes No 2 episodes


  1. ^ Michael Ritchie Biography (1938-2001)
  2. ^ "BRENTWOOD : Marilyn Monroe's House Sold, May Be Torn Down". Los Angeles Times. 1994-11-08. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  3. ^ van Gelder, Lawrence (2001-04-18). "Michael Ritchie, 62, Director Of 'Smile' and 'Downhill Racer'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  4. ^ The Washington Post, "John V. Tunney, California lawmaker whose campaign inspired a film, dies at 83", By Matt Schudel, 914 words, 16 January 2018. Retrieved on 9/11/2020
  5. ^ a b Willman, Chris. "EW.com's tribute to Downhill Racer director Michael Ritchie". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  6. ^ Ritchie, Michael (1994). Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television. Woodstock, N.Y.: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-615-1.
  7. ^ Coursodon, Jean-Pierre (1983). American Directors Volume II. New York: McGraw-Hill Paperbacks. p. 313. ISBN 007013264X.