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Robert Snyder, 88; Documentarian

March 22, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Robert Snyder, who won an Academy Award in 1950 for the feature documentary "The Titan: The Story of Michelangelo," has died. He was 88.

Snyder died Sunday at his home in Pacific Palisades after a long illness, according to John Ferry, a business associate.

In a 40-year career, Snyder produced or directed a number of well-regarded documentaries, most of them biographical.

His subjects included writer Henry Miller, diarist Anais Nin, historians Will and Ariel Durant, cellist Pablo Casals and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller, who was also Snyder's father-in-law.

Snyder, in fact, made two documentaries on Fuller: "Buckminster Fuller on Spaceship Earth" and "The World of Buckminster Fuller."

He also wrote a book on his father-in-law titled "Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue Scenario."

His films included one on insects, "The Hidden World," which was narrated by Gregory Peck and nominated for a feature documentary Oscar in 1958; and a 12-part series, "Looking at Modern Art," which appeared on some PBS stations.

He returned to the subject of Michelangelo again in 1988, with the critically acclaimed "Michelangelo: Self Portrait" that appeared on PBS. The film used the master's own commentary, compiled from letters and diaries, and voiced by Snyder himself.

Times reviewer Kevin Thomas called the film "a work of art," adding, "We are able to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling not only revealed as an unfolding narrative but as a glorious resolution of Michelangelo's conflict between the spirit and the flesh."

Snyder was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Columbia University.

During World War II, he served in the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, analyzing propaganda in enemy films.

In addition to the book on Fuller, he wrote "This Is Henry, Henry Miller From Brooklyn" and "Anais Nin Observed: Portrait of the Woman as an Artist."

Snyder's survivors include his wife, Allegra Fuller Snyder, professor emeritus and former chairwoman of the dance department at UCLA; a son, Jamie Snyder; a daughter, Alexandra May; two grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; and two sisters.

Services are pending.

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