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Fosse: An Introduction
by DFernando Zaremba

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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 special.

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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