2020 Paley Archive Elements 3840x1536 Banner2
Continue searching the Collection



One in this documentary series that explores the lives and achievements of America's most celebrated native-born and adopted artists and performers. This 1984 documentary examines the career of Sanford Meisner (1905-1997), a founding member of the legendary Group Theatre who went on to train generations of notable American actors in a teaching career spanning over fifty years. This program features interviews with prominent actors and directors trained by Meisner who discuss their impressions of the man, his technique, and how his ideals have shaped their lives as artists. Interspersed with the interviews is footage of Meisner teaching classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City and Meisner at his personal retreat on the Caribbean island of Bequia. Highlights include the following: Meisner teaches a class at the Neighborhood Playhouse, his voice amplified by a prosthetic device due to his laryngectomy; director Sydney Pollack interviews Meisner, who talks about how his approach to teaching evolved; Meisner leads students in his famous listening/reacting exercise in which actors repeat the same line to each other back and forth repeatedly; Tony Randall describes the tremendous artistic impact of the Moscow Art Theatre's visit to America in the mid-1920s; another segment offers a brief history of the Group Theatre, formed in 1930 by Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg, and Cheryl Crawford, which utilized the acting theories of Constantin Stanislavsky; director Elia Kazan remembers the artistic devotion of the Group Theatre and the sensitivity of the young Mesiner; Randall discusses Meisner's early acting career with the Group Theatre; Meisner, at his home in Bequia, recalls his determination to speak and teach again after his larynx was removed; Meisner's brilliance as an actor is evidenced by a clip from "The Story on Page One"; director Vivian Matalon discusses why he believes Meisner left acting; Sydney Pollack describes a project funded by former students, in which seventy hours of Meisner classes were videotaped for posterity; Meisner discusses how guilt over the death of his brother when he was five shaped his life and pushed him into a world of fantasy and personal isolation; Meisner coaches actress Frances Sternhagen and transforms her monologue in a matter of moments; and Meisner has some practical and inspirational words for his students. Includes interviews with the following Meisner alumni: actors Robert Duvall, Joanne Woodward, Suzanne Pleshette, and Gregory Peck; playwright David Mamet; actors Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, and Mary Steenburgen; director Sydney Pollack; actor Tony Randall; director Elia Kazan; actor Jon Voight; actress/dancer Gwen Verdon; director Vivian Matalon; actor Peter Falk; director Mark Rydell; choreographer Bob Fosse; and actress Lee Grant. Also includes footage of the following Meisner-trained actors and directors: Sydney Pollack directing Dustin Hoffman on the set of the 1982 film "Tootsie"; Grace Kelly in "The Country Girl" (1954); Steve McQueen in Mark Rydell's "The Reivers" (1969); and director Mark Rydell at work on a set.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1996.


  • DATE: August 27, 1990 Monday 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:57:55
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:44857
  • GENRE: Arts documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Acting; Actors; Biography; Theater; Teachers
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1986-


  • For "American Masters":
  • Susan Lacy … Executive Producer
  • Harlene Freezer … Senior Producer
  • Diane Dufault … Producer
  • Jac Venza … Production (Misc.), Executive Director
  • Christine Benjaminsen … Production (Misc.), Production Associate
  • Robert Adleman … Production (Misc.), Production Controller
  • Jonathan Tunick … Series Theme Music Composed by
  • For "Sanford Meisner: The Theater's Best Kept Secret":
  • Sydney Pollack … Executive Producer, Direction (Misc.), Video Segments Directed by
  • Kent Paul … Producer, For the Playhouse Repertory Company
  • Robert Owens Scott … Associate Producer
  • Richard Blofson … Production (Misc.), Video Production Supervised by
  • Nick Doob … Director, Photographer, Editor
  • Richard N. Gladstein … Researcher, Assistant Editor
  • Skip Kennon … Music by
  • Ellen Haag … Music (Misc. Credits), Musical Consultant
  • Stephen Harvey … Creative Advisor, Interviews Conducted by
  • Harold Clurman
  • Cheryl Crawford
  • Robert Duvall
  • Peter Falk
  • Bob Fosse
  • Lee Grant
  • Group Theatre, The
  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Anne Jackson
  • Elia Kazan
  • Kelly, Grace (See also: Grace, Princess of Monaco)
  • David Mamet
  • Vivian Matalon
  • Steve McQueen
  • Sanford Meisner
  • Clifford Odets
  • Gregory Peck
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • Tony Randall
  • Mark Rydell
  • Mary Steenburgen
  • Frances Sternhagen
  • Lee Strasberg
  • Gwen Verdon
  • Jon Voight
  • Eli Wallach
  • Joanne Woodward
Continue searching the Collection