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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent