Robert Mulligan, who received an Oscar nomination for directing "To Kill a Mockingbird," died Friday of heart disease at his Connecticut home. He was 83.
Known for his diffident nature and sensitivity toward players, Mulligan directed five different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Gregory Peck and Mary Badham in "Mockingbird," Natalie Wood ("Love with the Proper Stranger"), Ruth Gordon ("Inside Daisy Clover") and Ellen Burstyn ("Same Time, Next Year"). Peck won the Oscar for his lead role as attorney Atticus Finch in "Mockingbird."
He also elicited consistently fine performances from a range of his players, including Anthony Perkins in "Fear Strikes Out," Jennifer O'Neill in "Summer of '42," Robert Redford in "Inside Daisy Clover" and Richard Gere in "Bloodbrothers."
The older brother of late actor Richard Mulligan, he earned his stripes in live TV in New York in the early 1950s on such productions as "Studio One" and "Playhouse 90" before becoming a movie director in 1957 with "Fear Strikes Out," the story of baseball pitcher Jimmy Piersall.
Sensing a kindred spirit, Francois Truffaut was a vocal champion, particularly cognizant of what he perceived as undue criticism of Mulligan's work for lacking a particular "style."
Mulligan himself was dismissive of critics/cineaste talk: "I don't know anything about 'the Mulligan style,'" he told the Village Voice in 1978. "If you can find it, well, that's your job."
Mulligan was born August 23, 1925, in New York. He worked for six months at the New York Times on the copy desk before entering Fordham University, where he majored in journalism and literature. He became one of the first students to enroll in the school's radio department.
After college, he started his show business career as a messenger boy at CBS. He soon moved up to production assistant and then won an opportunity to direct on the "Suspense" series. He excelled in the fast-paced milieu of live TV, helming such projects as "The Moon and Sixpence," "Billy Budd" and "The Bridge of San Luis Rey."
He directed stage plays as well, including "Comes a Day" on Broadway.