Award-winning director and writer Russell Rouse, who directed the star-studded 1966 film "The Oscar" and co-wrote the 1959 comedy hit "Pillow Talk," died Friday at the age of 74 in Santa Monica of heart failure and complications from a stroke.
Rouse and his longtime collaborator and friend, producer Clarence Greene, caused a stir early in their Hollywood careers with "The Thief" in 1952, a spy movie starring Ray Milland that had no dialogue, only background sounds. It is still widely studied at university film schools.
Oscar for 'Pillow Talk'
His credits as a writer include a wide array of films, ranging from "D.O.A.," a gripping 1950 film noir about a man slowly dying of poisoning who searches for his murderer, to "Pillow Talk," a witty box office success starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson for which he won an Oscar. "D.O.A." is being remade for release this winter.
His wife, former actress Beverly Michaels Rouse, said his best directorial work was probably "The Well" in 1951, a well-received study of a small town torn by racial tension and mob reaction that was nominated for an Academy Award.
"I think that was the most powerful picture, powerful and wonderful," his wife said. "I still have the reels on it, and it's very, very moving."
Rouse began directing at a time when television was beginning to offer people an alternative to the movies. He warned film makers that Hollywood was becoming complacent about its audience, saying "that is going to cause them to suffer later when TV really gets rolling."
Perhaps as a reflection of that philosophy, many of Rouse's efforts were fast-paced fare, including "Fastest Gun Alive," for which he won a Silver Spurs award, and "New York Confidential."
In 1964, Rouse received a Television Radio Writers Annual Award for outstanding teleplay for "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch."
Educated at UCLA, he was part of a film pioneering family that included his great-uncle, 1920s actor Bill Russell. As a young man he worked in the prop department at Paramount.
"He worked everything from film props to junior writer to the technical crew," Beverly Rouse said. "He came up in a classic type way and understood everything you could possibly understand about making film. He did it all."
She said Rouse continued to write until 1981, when he suffered a stroke that left him partially disabled. After he became ill, the couple moved from their home in Encino to the Silvercrest Residence in Santa Monica.
He is survived by his children, Stephen Russell Rouse, Christopher Russell Rouse and Jan Rouse Leath.
His wife asked that contributions be sent to the Russell Rouse Memorial Fund, Salvation Army Silvercrest Residence, 1530 5th St., Santa Monica 90401.