An artistic maverick whose reputation in the United States did not match his prestige in Europe, Robert Aldrich directed some of Hollywood's more intense examinations of violence, morality, and survival during the 1950s and '60s.
Scion of a prominent New England family, Aldrich played football and studied economics at the University of Virginia. Rather than enter the family businesses, however, Aldrich preferred movies. Securing a job at RKO through connections, Aldrich headed to Hollywood in 1941. Benefiting from the shortage of manpower (and an old injury) with the advent of WWII, Aldrich was quickly promoted to assistant director and production manager. At RKO and independent Enterprise Studios, and as a free agent, Aldrich spent the next decade working for a number of esteemed directors, including Lewis Milestone, Joseph Losey, Robert Rossen, Abraham Polonsky, and Charlie Chaplin, learning about moviemaking on such films as Force of Evil (1948), Body and Soul (1947), and Limelight (1952).