Ronald L. Schwary Dies: Oscar-Winning ‘Ordinary People’ Producer & Sydney Pollack Collaborator Was 76

Ronald Schwary, who won an Oscar as the producer of Ordinary People and whose other major film successes include A Soldier’s StoryAbsence of MaliceScent of a Woman and Tootsie, has died. He was 76. He passed away Thursday in West Hollywood, according to his sons.

No cause of death was provided, but reports indicate Schwary had struggled with a rare neurological autonomic disorder.

Schwary was the producer on six Sydney Pollack-directed films, including The Electric Horseman (1979) and Havana (1990), with Robert Redford; Absence of Malice (1981), starring Paul Newman; Best Picture nominee Tootsie (1982), with Dustin Hoffman; Sabrina (1995), featuring Harrison Ford, and Random Hearts (1999), also starring Ford.

Even though the films were nominated for Best Picture, Schwary did not receive a nomination for either Tootsie or Scent of a Woman or because he was not credited as “Producer.”

On Tootsie, there was a dispute between Columbia and the production regarding the number of credited producers. Columbia offered a co-producer credit to Schwary, but he turned it down. Thus, he is uncredited as a producer — though he is credited as an actor on the film.

His body of work also includes *batteries not included (1987), starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy; The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), with Barbra Streisand; and Meet Joe Black (1998), starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.

Ordinary People marked Robert Redford’s directorial debut and was also the first feature that Schwary produced himself. It starred Mary Tyler Moore as a suburban mother who struggled with her teenage son (Timothy Hutton) as she coped with the death of her favorite child. Redford, Schwary, Hutton and Alvin Sargent — screenplay adaptation — all won Oscars for the film.

Schwary later had another Best Picture nomination for Norman Jewison’s A Soldier’s Story (1984), starring Howard E. Rollins Jr.

His television resume includes work as an executive producer on the NBC series Medium, and the shows Tour of Duty and Now and Again.

Schwary won a DGA award for outstanding directorial achievement in a comedy series — shared with Gene Reynolds and Wes McAfee — for the 1972 pilot episode of M*A*S*H.

Born on May 23, 1944, in The Dalles, Oregon, Schwary began his studies at USC as a film major before graduating in 1967 with a business degree.

Survivors include his brothers, Mitchell Jr., Dennis and Gary; his sister, Carol; and his grandson, Mars. No memorial plans have been announced.

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