by DFernando Zaremba
The following year, All That Jazz
played in movie houses around the
world. It seemed as though Fosse was at the height of his powers, and
yet this peak was to be the last of his great successes. The film did
extremely well, boasting nine Oscar. nominations and an impressive
take at the box office.
Fosse never made any bones about the film being largely autobiographical
(he did co-write the screenplay after all). And there is something
creepily portentous in Gideon's heart trouble mirroring that which Fosse
himself would soon suffer through. Laudably open about his faults and
foibles, Fosse gives viewers an honest appraisal of his life in this
film. It is, in large part, that very honesty which makes the film so
The 1980s, unfortunately, were to prove a time of disappointment for the
director. His last film, Star 80
(1983), was excoriated by critics and
went largely unseen by audiences. A retelling of the tragic death of
Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten at the hands of her obsessed husband,
the film was thought inappropriate for the screen by many. Regardless,
it was a far cry from what audiences had come to expect from Fosse.
That failure was only compounded by a far greater one three years later,
Fosse's last Broadway show, Big Deal.
He himself adapted the book from
the Italian comedy film Big Deal on Madonna Street, and for the score he
employed a host of period song standards. He had been laboring (on and
off) for seventeen years on the project, and when it failed after
sixty-two performances, it came as quite a blow.
About the show, Fosse commented, "I like - not exactly sad, but
melancholy endings. They seem more true to life". Ironically, his own
was. He collapsed on the street outside the Willard Hotel in
Washington, D.C., where he had been rehearsing a revival of Sweet
Charity. Gwen Verdon, from whom he had been separated for some time,
was with him. Rushed to George Washington University Hospital, he was
pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at 7:23pm.
It was a swift ending to a career that had been extraordinarily
fast-paced. Fosse himself had mused about dying young some time before.
"I always thought I would be dead at 25. It was romantic. People would
mourn me: 'Oh, that young career'." He didn't, of course, die all that
young, yet all who mourned him spoke of how much he had left to give.
Perhaps Time Magazine's William A. Henry III put the lament best when he
wrote, "Oh, that ever young career."
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