LOS ANGELES -- Robert Aldrich, a Rockefeller cousin who left the family banking business for Hollywood and directed such action hits as 'The Dirty Dozen' and 'The Longest Yard,' died Monday at his home. He was 65.
A family spokesman said Aldrich entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center two months ago, and said his death was attributed to kidney failure.
Most of Aldrich's films were notable for their gritty realism or suspenseful melodrama.
In the early 1960s he was responsible for the screen comebacks of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who he co-starred in 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?' and 'Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte' when neither actress could find work in movies.
He also produced the first movie to be given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Producers Association, 'The Killing of Sister George.' He protested the rating, claiming he was penalized retroactively because the film was already in production when Jack Valenti installed the MPAA code.
Aldrich was considered a maverick by fellow filmmakers, who twice elected him president of the Directors Guild of America.
He was also well known for his battles with Jack Warner and Columbia's Harry Cohn over the cost and content of his pictures. Although he worked at the major studios, most of his movies were independently financed and produced.
Born in Cranston, R.I., in 1918 into a family replete with diplomats and tycoons, he studied finance at the University of Virginia and was expected to join the family banking empire. But he dropped out in his senior year to begin work in 1941 as a $25-a-week production :lerk at RKO studios.
He later became an assistant to such famed directors as Charlie Chaplin (on 'Limelight'), Orson Welles, Jean Renoir and Lewis Milestone, and made his debut as a director in 1953 with 'The Big Leaguer,' an Edward G. Robinson film that pioneered the multi-camera technique.
A college football star, he was a lifelong football fan who indulged that passion with 'The Longest Yard,' starring Burt Reynolds and set in a prison.
He reaped substantial financial rewards from 'The Dirty Dozen,' which starred an unusual all-male cast as a band of misfit World War II soldiers, and used the proceeds to purchase the old Famous Players-Lasky studios in Hollwyood.
His other films included 'Vera Cruz,' 'The Big Knife,' 'The Choir Boys,' 'Apache,' 'Hustle,' 'Attack,' 'Four For Texas,' 'The Flight of the Phoenix,' 'The Grissom Gang' and 'Emperor of the North Pole.'
His last picture was 'All the Marbles,' a 1981 comedy about female wrestlers.
'I make pictures I feel audiences will want to go see,' he once said. 'Some of them are bound to be controversial and some people may be upset.
'Everyone would like to have an artistic triumph, but it doesn't do a producer or director any good to be arty as hell and wind up with a product that's not much more than a damned expensive home movie.'
Although his movies were usually box office hits and won several Oscar nominations, he was never nominated himself. He was often honored at foreign film festivals, however.
Aldrich is survived by his wife, Sibylle, a former German fashion model he met in Berlin while shooting 'Ten Seconds to Hell,' and three children, William, Alida and Kelly.
Funeral services were to be held Wednesday at DGA offices in Hollywood.