Family & Companions
David S. Ward specialized in writing and directing feature films which often used a familiar backdrop to tell an unfamiliar tale. He got his big break when he sold "Steelyard Blues/The Final Crash," a film about a D.A. embarrassed by his ex-con brother and his ex-hooker girlfriend, to Michael and Julia Phillips in 1971. Released in 1973, the film starred Howard Hesseman as the lawyer, Donald Sutherland as his brother and Jane Fonda as the girl. Most critics found it entertaining, but it was not as popular as the other Ward-Phillips 1973 collaboration, "The Sting." Starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the movie was about the gambling con job deluxe. Meticulously directed by George Roy Hill, featuring a wonderful cast (besides Newman and Redford, there was Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan and Ray Walston) and fueled partly by Marvin Hamlisch's score adapted from Scott Joplin rags, "The Sting" was a popular and critical hit. It went on to win seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and one for Ward's original screenplay.
But it was several years before Ward's word was back on the big screen. He wrote and directed the unsuccessful "Cannery Row" (1982), adapted from John Steinbeck's novel. Troubled from the outset when Raquel Welch was replaced by Debra Winger, it was one of the films said to have helped bring down a studio (in this case, MGM/UA). Although Ward continued to work as a screenwriter, including "The Milagro Beanfield War" (1988) directed by Robert Redford, it was not until 1989 that he directed another film. "Major League," about the locker room and playing field stories of a Cleveland team aiming to beat the Yankees, was a popular hit and spawned a sequel, "Major League II" (1994) which Ward only directed. He also wrote and directed John Goodman in the actor's first star vehicle, "King Ralph" (1991), a lame comedy about an American who inherits the throne of England. Ward had better luck with his script contributions to Nora Ephron's "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) which netted him another Oscar nomination. He directed Kelsey Grammer (in his first feature lead) and Lauren Holly in the comedy "Down Periscope" (1996).
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Screenwriting debut, "Steelyard Blues"
First successful film as screenwriter, "The Sting"; won Oscar for Best Original Screenplay
Feature directing debut "Cannery Row"; also scripted
Co-wrote the screen adaptation of "The Milagro Beanfield War"
Enjoyed hit as writer-director of the sports comedy "Major League"
Wrote and directed the controversial sports film "The Program" about a college football team; one scene where the team members lie down in moving traffic created a stir when young men emulated it
Contributed to the script for Nora Ephron's "Sleepless in Seattle"; shared Academy Award nomination
Producing debut, "Major League II"; also scripted
Stumbled with the lame comedy "Down Periscope"