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Tuesday, February 20, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Director Stanley Kramer dies

The Associated Press

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LOS ANGELES - Filmmaker Stanley Kramer, who produced and directed some of Hollywood's most celebrated "message" films, including "High Noon," "The Defiant Ones" and "Judgment at Nuremberg," died yesterday. He was 87.

He had recently developed pneumonia, said his wife, Karen Sharpe Kramer, and was at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills.

"This morning he seemed to be doing very well," she said. "I was getting dressed and coming out to see him. I said, `I'll be there in an hour and a half,' and he said, `Fine, I'll just take a nap, then,' and 20 minutes later he was gone."

Mr. Kramer's films drew 80 Oscar nominations and 16 wins, including acting awards for Gary Cooper ("High Noon"), Maximilian Schell ("Judgment at Nuremberg") and Katharine Hepburn ("Guess Who's Coming to Dinner").

As producer or producer-director, Mr. Kramer was responsible for films dealing with race ("The Defiant Ones," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"), Nazi war crimes ("Judgment at Nuremberg"), fundamentalism vs. modern science ("Inherit the Wind"), nuclear holocaust ("On the Beach") and counterculture ("The Wild Ones," "RPM").

The famous showdown of "High Noon" showed a man of courage standing up to evil while others in his community cowered in the shadows.

Mr. Kramer, who lived in Bellevue at the time, wrote a column for The Seattle Times from 1980 to 1986.

"Stanley Kramer is one of our great filmmakers, not just for the art and passion he put on-screen, but for the impact he has made on the conscience of the world," Steven Spielberg once said.

Mr. Kramer himself said he didn't want to be typecast as a "message director." Asked, then, why he took on such films, he replied, "I suppose the best answer is that emotionally I am drawn to these subjects."

But as for changing the world, he said, "If two people came out of a theater in Kansas City, Mo., and one said, `You know, I never thought of it that way before,' that would satisfy me."

While none of his films won the Oscar for best picture, among those nominated were: "High Noon," "The Caine Mutiny," "The Defiant Ones," "Judgment at Nuremberg," "Ship of Fools" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Mr. Kramer was nominated as best director three times, and in 1962 he was presented with a special Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for doing consistently high-quality work.

Mr. Kramer put his ideals to work behind the screen, too, hiring blacklisted writers such as Ned Young, who used the pseudonym Nathan E. Douglas and got an Oscar for his work on "The Defiant Ones" and a nomination for "Inherit the Wind."

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