Obituary: Fred Sadoff

Frederick Edward Sadoff, stage director, actor: born California 21 October 1926; died Los Angeles 6 May 1994.

IN THE LATE Fifties Fred Sadoff came to Britain from New York to join his friend Michael Redgrave, and start with him a theatrical production company, FES Plays Ltd.

Sadoff had appeared in comparatively small supporting roles in two legendary Broadway hits: South Pacific (1948) and Wish You Were Here (1952). He was a founder member of the Actors' Studio and brought to the somewhat genteel London theatre racy stories of his more illustrious colleagues at the studio. Young English actors would listen fascinated by his tales and imitations of Marlon Brando, Eli Wallach, Maureen Stapleton and Kim Stanley. Although he believed passionately in the ideals of his mentor, Lee Strasberg, and his very particular version of the Stanislavsky method, Sadoff was at heart a true child of Broadway, and loved the showbiz razzmatazz and energy of Ethel Merman and Mary Martin.

However, Sadoff's dedication to the theatre was somewhat strained by his determination to do everything. He had worked successfully as an actor in New York and showed promise as a director, but found it difficult to get work in England, and so launched himself as a producer with the sponsorship of Redgrave. Redgrave had already helped Sadoff get the job of assistant director to Glen Byam Shaw for the Hamlet (1958) Redgrave so memorably played first at Stratford and then on tour in the Soviet Union. But Sadoff was no fool and knew the company resented his presence as an American and, more important, were embarrassed by what appeared to be his very intimate and not particularly discreet relationship with Redgrave, who had a wife and three children.

The first FES production in the West End was a run-of-the-mill thriller but in 1960 Sadoff engaged the distinguished director Margaret Webster to put on Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings at the Duke of York's. The all-star cast featured Dame Sybil Thorndike, Marie Lohr, Mary Clare, Lewis Casson and Nora Nicholson. Sadoff delighted in the company of these senior actors, and proved himself both an excellent diplomat and impresario since, as well as battling with fading memories and difficulties with lines, some of the old stars were also battling with each other, off and on stage.

He now considered himself established as a producer, and confidently stayed on in London and presented other West End shows. His most interesting production was one he also directed: Hughie and Others, by Eugene O'Neill, at the Duchess in 1963. This was an evening of three one-act plays, loosely connected by a narration spoken by Burgess Meredith who came over specially to create the role of Erie Smith in the premiere of Hughie. Sadoff was more on home territory, for he also brought over the American actress Nan Martin, an old Actors' Studio friend, who performed the monologue Before Breakfast. The production was adventurous but received tepidly. Even then O'Neill was underestimated by the British critical fraternity.

Sadoff so enjoyed getting back to directing that he decided for his next production he would not only direct and produce, but also play the leading role and write it. His double bill Games, at the Arts Theatre in 1964, was a complete failure and provoked one of the most hostile notices ever penned by Bernard Levin, in the Daily Mail. Sadoff was crestfallen, but he knew he had made a fool of himself.

Somehow his determination had got the better of him. Still his naturally good nature kept him going, and when he felt his time was up he gave away the touring skips of FES Plays Ltd, and went back to the United States. He found work on television in Los Angeles with some difficulty, played off-Broadway, taught with great enthusiasm back at the studio, held workshops for young actors, and even wrote more, now unproduced, plays.

Sadoff was a demanding and needy friend, but always full of fun and curiosity. His unshaken belief that everything would soon be all right never wavered. He died of Aids in Los Angeles. Many of his old colleagues and students spoke at his memorial service in New York at the Actors' Studio, and loving messages were sent by friends from England, among them Vanessa and Corin Redgrave.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower