Sydney Pollack, whom I knew and interviewed from time to time over a 26-year period, died nearly four years ago. He was always a fretting, hard-working, impassioned director-producer who never took his work lightly, and who was determined every time to make his films as intelligent and full-bodied and emotionally whole as humanly possible. I liked him personally and respected him tremendously. He was a straight shooter and an affable, fair-minded guy.

On top of which Pollack was probably the greatest commentator and raconteur that mainstream Hollywood ever known or worked with — a guy you could talk and listen to for hours.

I’m reminded of this gift of gab by Simon Abrams5.4 Movieline review of the recently released Jeremiah Johnson Bluray.

“Pollack’s stories about the making of Jeremiah Johnson are easily the highlight of the film’s audio commentary track,” Abrams says, “including such tales as when he had to lay down chain-link fence in the snow to help the film’s trained horses cross treacherously snowy, mountainous terrain, or when he got a live grizzly to chase Redford, saying that the bear had to be teased as if it were a domesticated dog.

“Pollack was such a gifted raconteur that many of the minor details he relates on the audio commentary prove how effortless his total recollection of shooting Jeremiah Johnson was, like when he anticipates the moment in a scene where Redford trips while wading around in freezing water. Redford’s fall that isn’t particularly impressive, but the breezy way that Pollack anticipates the minor event certainly is.”

Here’s my Pollack obit, written the day his death was announced on

And here’s how I described Pollack’s DVD commentary tracks, imagining how Pollack himself might have put it : “Look, I don’t know everything but I do know this much, and I’ve been around enough to understand what tends to work and what doesn’t, and I tried to make this particular aspect work. I don’t know if I succeeded or not but people have told me I did so okay, maybe. But what I really love is the process — the shaping and refining — even though it gives me gray hairs. And I believe in having a sense of humor, or at least a sense of irony.”

You can’t trust Amazon for aspect ratios, but the Jeremiah Johnson Bluray page says it’s 1.77 to 1, which is unusual. What will the 1.85 aspect ratio fascists make of this, if true?