Family & Companions
A proficient director of mainstream Hollywood fare, Martha Coolidge began her career in her native Connecticut as a stage actress appearing with a local theater company. While attending the Rhode Island School of Design, she began to make films and found her true calling, turning out six student films. After further studies at NYC's School of Visual Arts and at Columbia University, she landed her first professional gig as a writer and producer of the Canadian daily children's show "Magic Tom." Returning to the USA, Coolidge enrolled at NYU's Institute of Film and Television and went on to turn out several award-winning documentary portraits, including two of family members, "David: On and Off" (1972), about her brother, and "Old Fashioned Woman" (1974), about her grandmother. These, along with the pseudo-documentary "Not a Pretty Picture" (1976) which reconstructed her high school date rape, helped establish her reputation as a filmmaker.
Coolidge first broke into Hollywood studios as a screenwriter receiving credit as one of several writers who contributed the story to the spy comedy "The Omega Connection" (1979). Her directorial debut, "Valley Girl" (1983), proved to be an above average teen comedy and quickly established her as one to watch. She had elicited a fine comic turn from Nicolas Cage in that film and her sophomore effort, "The City Girl" (1984) was an underrated gem featuring fine work from Laura Harrington as the titular character, a photographer with a penchant for unwise romantic pairings. With her growing reputation as an actor's director and given a "big budget" ($13 million), Coolidge helmed "Real Genius" (1985), a smart satire that featured a star-making turn by Val Kilmer and gave William Atherton a meaty supporting role. If overall the film was somewhat lacking in consistent character development, it did provide solid laughs and boded well for its director. Further adding to her reputation was "Rambling Rose" (1991), a meticulously performed character piece about an eccentric Southern family and their housemaid. The mother and daughter team of Diane Ladd and Laura Dern each received Oscar nominations under Coolidge's assured handling.
An active member of the Directors Guild of America, Coolidge divided her time between TV and features and working within the union. While her film work in the 1990s hasn't exactly yielded a blockbuster, she has done yeoman work, often giving actresses rare chances to shine: consider Mercedes Ruehl in "Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers" (1993), Geena Davis in "Angie" (1994) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in "Three Wishes" (1995). Even in "Out to Sea" (1997), a film built around the comic pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, Elaine Stritch, Rue McClanahan, Dyan Cannon and Gloria DeHaven won critical kudos. Coolidge continued to demonstrate an affinity for pulling strong performances from her leading ladies in her small screen work as well. Her best-known telefilms were "Crazy in Love" (TNT, 1992), which focused on three generations of women (Herta Ware, Gena Rowlands and Holly Hunter) in the Pacific Northwest, and "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" (HBO, 1999), a biopic of the black sex symbol produced by and starring Halle Berry.
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Producer (TV Mini-Series)
Wrote and produced daily children's TV show, "Magic Tom" in Canada
Wrote, produced, directed and edited the documentary "David: Off and On", about her brother
Edited, produced, wrote and directed "Old Fashioned Woman", a documentary portrait of her octogenarian grandmother
Feature film debut, the semi-autobiographical, pseudo-documentary, "Not a Pretty Picture", about date rape; produced, wrote, directed, edited and starred
As American Film Institute/Academy intern, worked with Robert Wise on his film, "Audrey Rose"
Worked on rock and roll love story, "Photoplay" for Coppola's Zoetrope Studio (project abandoned when studio began its collapse c. 1980)
Breakthrough feature, "Valley Girl" starring Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman
First big budget ($13 million) Hollywood film, "Real Genius"
Helmed the pilot for the ABC sitcom "Sledge Hammer!"
TV-movie directing debut, "Trenchcoat in Paradise"
Won acclaim for her direction of "Rambling Rose"; real-life mother and daughter co-stars Laura Dern and Diane Ladd received Oscar nominations for their performances
Helmed the well-received made-for-cable movie "Crazy in Love" (TNT)
Steered the uneven film version of "Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers", an semi-autobiographical look at the author's upbringing based on his Pulitzer-winning play
Appeared as a security guard in "Beverly Hills Cop III"
Directed the family drama "Three Wishes", starring Al Pacino and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Helmed the feature comedy "Out to Sea", starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau
Directed the HBO biopic "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge", produced by and starring Halle Berry; received Emmy nomination
Helmed one segment of the tripart "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (HBO), examining the lesbian experience in America
Helmed "The Ponder Heart" for PBS
Directed episodes of the hit HBO series, "Sex and the City"
Directed Julia Stiles in the romatic comedy "The Prince and Me"
Directed the short-lived series, "Related" (WB)
Directed sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff in the comedy "Material Girls"