Robert Aldrich (August 9, 1918- December 5, 1983) was a United States film director, writer and producer notable for a number of films including What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and The Dirty Dozen.
Robert Burgess Aldrich was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, the son of Lora Lawson and newspaper publisher Edward B. Aldrich, and grandson of US Senator Nelson W. Aldrich. Robert was educated at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island and went to the University of Virginia to study economics. He dropped out in 1941 to begin his film industry career with a minor job at RKO.
He quickly worked his way up the production ladder, as an assistant director he worked with men including Jean Renoir, Abraham Polonsky, Joseph Losey and Charlie Chaplin. He moved into television direction in the 1950s and directed his first feature film, The Big Leaguer, in 1954. In the 1950s Aldrich was a rare American example of the auteur, enforcing his own vision across a wide thematic range, with films like the noir classic Kiss Me Deadly, the adaptation of Clifford Odets' play about Hollywood The Big Knife (both 1955) and the war film Attack! (1956).
In the 1960s he went on to direct a number of major commercial successes, such as the gothic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, in which he teamed two of the greatest Hollywood rivals, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, the controversial The Killing of Sister George (1968) and the exemplar for many later war films, The Dirty Dozen (1967). The success of Dozen allowed him to set up his own studio and finance his own films for a few years, but a series of flops returned him to Hollywood and a series of more commercial films, such as The Longest Yard (1974). His stunning Western from 1972 Ulzana's Raid is among the very best of his works.
He had four children with his first wife Harriet Foster, all of whom became involved in the movie business: Adell Aldrich, William Aldrich, Alida Aldrich, and Kelly Aldrich. Robert and Harriet later divorced, and he married model Sybille Siegfried in 1965.