Film critic Andrew Sarris, whose writings on auteur theory helped movie directors gain acceptance as artists, passed away yesterday at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan. He was 83.
Sarris began his career at the Village Voice in 1960, after spending a year in Paris. There, Sarris was exposed to European films and François Truffaut’s auteur theory, which he went on to popularize in the U.S. with his 1962 essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory.”
Throughout his career, Sarris championed the supreme importance of the director’s role in filmmaking. His 1968 book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968, which has been a bible for generations of film students, defined a pantheon of filmmakers, among them Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Orson Wells and the then emerging Francis Ford Coppola. He was equally as quick to deem certain other directors overrated.
Sarris taught film at Columbia University (his alma mater), Yale University, Juilliard and New York University, among other institutions.
The New York native wrote for the Village Voice until 1989, when he left for the New York Observer. He remained there until 2009, and continued to serve as a professor until his retirement last year.
Sarris is survived by his wife and fellow film critic, Molly Haskell.