POSTED May 25 2012

The wizardry of Frank Oz

Peter Dinklage and Frank Oz on set of "Death at a Funeral"

35 years ago in a galaxy far, far, away moviegoers encountered a wise, wizened creature named Yoda. His voice was vaguely familiar, for his creator, Frank Oz, was the puppeteer likewise behind Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Cookie Monster. If Oz were only a puppeteer, that would be enough. He is considerably more. Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Today, the 35th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, is also the 68th birthday of the wonderful wizard named Frank Oz. Today, I want to celebrate Oz not as a puppeteer but as a director. Few movies inspire the giddiness of s BowfingerDirty Rotten Scoundrels, House Sitter, In & Out and his remake of Death at a Funeral. I also very much liked his downbeat heist film The Score, with Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Ed Norton.

Because Oz, like Mike Nichols, started out as a performer, he has a keen ear for dialogue. You could set your stopwatch to Oz’s precision timing. He plays productively with actors, particularly Steve Martin (Scoundrels, Little Shop of Horrors, Bowfinger, House Sitter), Eddie Murphy (Bowfinger), Kevin Kline and Joan Cusack (In & Out), Bill Murray (What About Bob?) and Peter Dinklage (Death at a Funeral).  One might complain that as a director he tends to be more audio than visual and he favors sunshine over shadow, yet there are few more inspired catalysts of screen comedy than this gentleman born Frank Oznowicz.

My favorite moment in an Oz movie: When Shalom Harlow, anorexic model and girlfriend of Matt Dillon, in In & Out, encounters her first rotary telephone and doesn’t know how to work it. Your favorite Oz movie?


  1. Miz Val says:

    Favorite Frank Oz moment.As a cop at intake in Trading Places (1983) and The Blues Brothers (1980) taking inventory on the personal items Dan Aykroyd prior to his jail term and then John Belushi upon his release from jail. Classic !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you\'re not a robot: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.