Director Builds on College Theater


According to Robert Ellis Miller '48, it was both his years at Harvard College and his years at "that wonderful school of experience" which gave him the tools he needed to become an acclaimed TV and film director.

Miller's directing credits include The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Reuben, Reuben, and episodes of "The Twilight Zone," "Route 66" and "Naked City"--not bad for a man who spent his college career "having a lot of fun" according to Richard S. Milstein '48, a college friend.

A Winthrop House English concentrator, Miller had an early interest in the humanities, and was elected president of the Harvard Dramatic Club.

"He was very warm, and very interested in theater and acting at that time," Milstein says. "He had done quite a bit of acting before he got to Harvard."

Miller graduated from the College in 1949, after taking time off from school to serve in the Army, and immediately went to work at CBS television and for various off-Broadway shows in New York City.


After garnering Emmy and Directors Guild nominations for his television work, Miller made the leap to feature films, directing "Any Wednesday," Jane Fonda's first comedic success, in 1966.

Any Wednesday was followed by the film Sweet November and then The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which netted him honors including best foreign film awards in Sweden and Belgium.

The film also earned Academy Award nominations for Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke in the categories of best actor and best supporting actress.

Over the next two decades, Miller directed a number of other movies, including Girl from Petrovka, which starred Goldie Hawn and was Anthony Hopkins' first American feature film, and Reuben, Reuben, a well-regarded comedy for which Tom Conti received an Oscar nomination.

Although Miller, who grew up in New York, was initially unhappy that his film career forced him to move to Los Angeles, he says he appreciated the opportunity to travel while filming.

"That's magic, to go to a place and work with foreign or mixed crews," he says.

After spending six years living in London and working on film projects throughout Europe, Miller returned to Los Angeles and developed a new appreciation of the city. "I fell in love with LA after that," he says.

Although Miller spends much of his time directing films, he has continued to direct TV shows and remains involved with his first love, theater.

"When I first started working in television, I used to go back to summerstock, teaching myself that entertainment has a beginning, a middle and an end, because the hardest part of filming is shooting out of sequence," he says.

Although Miller says he gained much of his film expertise working in the field, he notes that Harvard prepared him for his career in unexpected ways.

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