December 8, 2008

Nina Foch Obituary

Hollywood Icon, SCA Lecturer, Mentor

By Mel Cowan

Nina Foch, a widely respected lecturer at USC for the last 40 years and a veteran actress, whose credits stretch back to the golden age of Hollywood film noir, passed away Friday December 5. She was 84.

According to her son, Dr. Dirk De Brito, she died of complications from long-term myelodysplasia, a blood disorder.

Foch taught the Advanced Seminar in Directing Actors for Film, where she passed along lessons learned from a lifetime of acting in acclaimed films like An American in Paris, Spartacus, and Scaramouche. For her portrayal of Erica Martin in the Robert Wise-directed Executive Suite, she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She was equally comfortable in film and television, appearing in classic series like Lou Grant, The Mod Squad and Gunsmoke. As recently as 2007, she appeared in an episode of the critically-acclaimed TNT series, The Closer.

Foch taught two classes a week at USC, where her course was required for a master of fine arts writing program.

"Believe it or not, teaching is the most rewarding thing I do," Foch told United Press International in 1994. "It has been the most successful thing I've done in my life."

"Nina taught our students one of the most difficult skills in the cinematic arts: how to turn the words on the page into compelling performances," said Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. "She inspired and influenced generations of USC women and men, who in turn went on to shape the direction of both cinema and television. We are all truly saddened by this loss."

"It was electrifying to be in her classroom," said Assistant Professor Ted Braun, M.F.A. Production ’88, director of Darfur Now. "Her stamp is on all of us who studied with her. Everything that I teach now is somehow influenced by the understanding of drama and cinema that I gleaned from her."

"One of Nina’s most compelling exercises involved the 'hot object'," said Kam Miller, M.F.A. Writing ’03, writer for Law and Order: SVU, remembering her time studying with Foch. "Every student had to bring an important artifact from our lives to class. We had to describe it in specific detail. During these sessions, with objects as varied as wedding dresses and Vegas VIP cards, we’d learn things about ourselves, and our peers that we would have never known otherwise. Nina created an immediate sense of intimacy necessary to share childhood fears, adult failings, wildest dreams, and deepest hopes. In short, Nina bonded each class. Nina solidified nascent relationships into lifelong, career-long ties."

Nina Foch, respected teacher and Hollywood veteran.
Randal Kleiser, director of Grease and Flight of the Navigator, spoke warmly about Foch. "I took her class 40 years ago, and she went from being a teacher to a mentor to a best friend," said Kleiser. "Her unique teaching style reflected her influences, ranging from Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler to Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Kubrick. Several generations of filmmakers are lucky to have been trained by her, and you can see their funny and touching recollections at the Tribute to Nina Foch page on"

"There will never be anyone like her," said Kleiser.

On Tuesday April 14, hundreds of friends and former students packed the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to celebrate her life and legacy.