Roberta O. Hodes

February 17, 1927January 19, 2021

Roberta Olivia Hodes, script supervisor, producer, director, screenwriter, actress, and professor, and most generous friend, passed away in Manhattan on January 19th, 2021. Roberta and the first talking film both debuted in 1927. Born under the bright lights of Manhattan, Roberta remained in them for most of her nearly 94 years. Despite more than one attempt to relocate to the West Coast for professional reasons, she returned to New York, to her the only ‘real city’.

Roberta was as supportive and loyal as she was difficult and demanding. Never married, she had many intense, lifelong relationships with intellectual and talented people. At Vassar in the 1940s, she, a young Jewish woman, and Olive Wong, a young Black woman, met and developed a friendship that lasted 70 years. Similarly, in the film industry, she met Louise Kerz Hirschfeld and Sheila Paige, two of her dearest friends. David Sidorsky, whom she met as they courageously sailed to Israel in 1948, also remained close throughout her life. Upon graduation from Vassar College, Roberta set sail for the newly formed state of Israel. From volunteering on Kibbutz Ein HaShofet, she was recruited by the Haganah where she helped make IDF informational films, which led her into a long and exciting career in the film industry upon return to the U.S. She even appeared in Out of Evil, a 1951 (available on YouTube) Israeli film about the transition from the Holocaust to the establishment of Israel. Roberta wielded a sharp intellect, astute creativity, and strong opinions. She was a lover of the language arts, whether on the written page or the silver screen. Roberta’s precision and demanding attention to detail suited the demands of a continuity director to a tee and helped elevate that role in the film industry to the level of script supervisor. In 1954, Roberta was perhaps the first to receive film credit as “script supervisor”, serving that role for director Elia Kazan’s masterpiece On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando, and subsequent Kazan films including Baby Doll and A Face In The Crowd. She worked with other noted directors and actors including Martin Scorsese, Carl Reiner, David Niven, Lucie Arnaz, Mickey Rooney, Angela Cartwright, Al Pacino, Carroll Baker, Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine, Zohra Lampert, JoAnne Woodward, and Paul Newman, among many others.

Her short film, The Game, about disadvantaged African American and Puerto Rican youth on New York’s Lower East Side, won an award for best documentary at the Venice Film Festival. She also directed A Secret Space, a coming-of-age story about a young boy’s bar mitzvah, for PBS.

In addition, Roberta taught graduate film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for fifteen years. She could both inspire and intimidate; was rigorous, demanding, and yet tender-hearted. She’d corral her surprised graduate students through the streets of Harlem in the 1980s one week, and invite them over for drinks and dinner the next. In an interview, Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, one of her many students who went on to have distinguished careers, described Roberta as “stern but very influential” in his early career. Talking with and about her students gave Roberta the greatest joy. Teaching was the pinnacle of Roberta’s storied film career.

Daughter of Louis and Esterre, sister to Marion (Ed) (Halina), aunt to Marquis (Jennifer), Zachary, (Judy), Jonathan (Janet) and her much-adored Abigail (Alan), great aunt extraordinaire to Alyssa, Ari, Danielle, Isaac (Kim), Jeremy, Tahlia, Dylan, Ethan and Erika, loyal friend to Louise, Sheila, Olive, Judy and David, and mentor to many NYU Tisch Film students. She will be greatly missed by all.

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Roberta O. Hodes

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Martin Schwartz

January 31, 2021

The most important teacher for me for all my film, tv and communications work. Her frequent barked feedback for all students when to end a shot or sequence: "we got it, get out of it already!"... has stayed with me forever with any editing or shooting.

Toni Crey

January 25, 2021

Roberta held court in her office at the Tisch Graduate School of the Arts neon blue building located off Second Avenue, where she would bestow the witty, stylistic, and often harsh criticism of her genius mind upon her first year student /victims, later to work in the changing film/tv world, or swim to the top to win Academy Awards. In those office meetings, Roberta would often mention a special student who graduated and became Woody Allen’s editor. As I sat there listening to her accolades, I determined one day I had to be one of those students. I was lucky to have spoken with her several times over the past few months, and managed to make her laugh when I recounted my experience working as a union 161 Script Supervisor for things I would remember her saying as I would be standing on a set somewhere in the middle of Georgia. Roberta was a true New Yorker, just like my Mother She was my film guide opening up a new world that made me who I am, gave me a career as a Writer/ Director, and made me the smartest person on the set. Which I owe all to her. Those conversations in that office changed my life forever, as I will hear her voice saying in my ear while I edit my film, “A movie is told in close up.” And so it is. RIP xo Toni

Vincent Ceriale

January 20, 2021

Roberta was the first person I met at NYU's GFTV department back in the fall of 1981. Her Hollywood magnetism and assertation and critiques of my creative abilities gave me the confidence I neeed to complete my MFA degree and continue on working at CBS for over 30 years. Back in September I was able to reach her by phone and I had a wonderful conversation with her about; our days at NYU in the East Village....when it still was the East Village, movies, scripts and politics. I was very saddened to learn today of her passing but find great joy in knowing she changed my me that special confidence to create...and to always challenge oneself to be better; both on screen and off...! She definitely deserved an Oscar for all the work she did for us....the students....the future of the entertainment business. RIP Roberta. I will certainly miss you. Vincent J. Ceriale