Martha Coolidge

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Martha Coolidge
Born Martha Patterson Coolidge
(1946-08-17) August 17, 1946 (age 70)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Alma mater Rhode Island School of Design, NYU Tisch School of the Arts
Occupation Film director, film editor, film producer, screenwriter, television director
Years active 1972–present
Spouse(s) James Spencer

Martha Coolidge (born August 17, 1946) is an American film director and former President of the Directors Guild of America.[1] She has directed such films as Real Genius and Rambling Rose.

Early life and family[edit]

Coolidge was born in New Haven, Connecticut. She is a granddaughter of Arthur W. Coolidge, former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, who was himself a fifth cousin of President Calvin Coolidge.

Coolidge studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design, but changed majors, becoming the first film major at the school. She earned her MFA from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Later in Los Angeles she studied acting and other aspects of her craft with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Joanne Baron, and David Craig.


Coolidge first made her reputation by directing many award winning documentaries in New York. While in New York, she helped found the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) and the IFP.

She moved to Hollywood in 1976 and spent several years as a part of the Zoetrope Studio created by Francis Ford Coppola. Her feature-length directorial debut, Not a Pretty Picture, was based on a date rape she suffered at age 16.[2] Her breakthrough film was the independently produced Valley Girl (1983), which is now best remembered for launching the career of Nicolas Cage. It also helped the popularity of the British band Modern English's hit song I Melt with You. Her film Rambling Rose (1991) won three IFP Independent Spirit Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress for Diane Ladd, and earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Ladd and Laura Dern (Best Actress). Rambling Rose was well reviewed and made many top ten lists for the year. Despite a limited release hampered by economic problems suffered by the production company, the film played for months without advertising and earned many honors.

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) for HBO was nominated for eleven Emmy Awards, winning five, including Best Actress for its star, Halle Berry, and earned Coolidge an Emmy and DGA (Director's Guild of America) nominations for Best Director.

From 2002 to 2003 she was the Director's Guild of America's first female president.


  • Emmy Award Nomination ~ Best Director : Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
  • Independent Spirit Award ~ Best Director : Rambling Rose
  • Independent Spirit Award ~ Best Feature : Rambling Rose
  • DGA Award ~ Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award
  • DGA Award Nomination ~ Best Director : An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong
  • DGA Award Nomination ~ Best Director : If These Walls Could Talk 2
  • DGA Award Nomination ~ Best Director : Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
  • CableACE Nomination ~ Best Director : Crazy in Love


  • Paris Film Festival ~ Grand Prix Award : Real Genius
  • Chicago Film Critics Association Award Nomination ~ Best Director: Rambling Rose
  • Chicago International Film Festival ~ Best Short Film: Bimbo
  • Chicago International Film Festival ~ Best Short Film: More Than a School
  • LA Femme International Film Festival ~ Maverick Award
  • Method Fest ~ Forerunner Award
  • Online Film & Television Association ~ Best Director: Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
  • Women in Film ~ Crystal Award

Selected filmography[edit]


External links[edit]