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Emmys: How Bob Fosse Ruled 1973

Dustin Hoffman, Bob Fosse & Liza Minelli
Courtesy Everett Collection
Bob Fosse (center) on the set of "Cabaret" in 1971 with star Liza Minelli and a visiting Dustin Hoffman, whom he later directed in "Lenny."

The choreographer-turned-director's Emmy for "Liza With a Z" topped his banner year.

In 1973, Bob Fosse had quite a year. He won a Tony for directing Pippin; an Oscar doing the same with Cabaret (beating, among others, Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather); and Liza With a Z brought him a directing Emmy for achievement in comedy, variety or music.

That's a one-year triple crown no one else has matched.

When NBC's Liza Minnelli special aired in September 1972, The Hollywood Reporter review said, "The task of showing the television audience all the excitement Liza creates in her act fell to Bob Fosse and [writer] Fred Ebb and they did a magnificent job."

However, the next line downplayed their contribution: "In a sense, they just aimed the cameras at Liza and let her do her concert," which, to say the least, didn't give Fosse much credit (or mention that he used eight 16mm cameras to capture the look he wanted).

An explanation might be that the choreographer-turned-director just made the end result look easy. Whether it was choreographing his wife, Gwen Verdon, as Lola in Damn Yankees or directing Dustin Hoffman in his Oscar-nominated performance as Lenny Bruce in Lenny, he had a way of drawing out excellence and winning awards.

Even films about him won awards: His semiautobiographical All That Jazz shared the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1980 with Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha, and the 1990 PBS Great Performances: Dance in America documentary Bob Fosse: Steam Heat won an Emmy for outstanding informational special.

The chain-smoking Fosse, for whom the words "intensely driven" don't even come close to describing his work ethic, died in 1987 at age 60 of a heart attack while working on a revival of Sweet Charity.