The Nina Foch Course

Print Media Reviews

Leonard Maltin

An Inspiring Actress…And An Inspired TV Comedy

What do Julie Andrews, Barry Manilow, and the directors of Grease, Glory and Toy Story 3 have in common? They all studied acting with the great Nina Foch and continue to sing her praises.

Timing in life is everything. When I was a journalism major at New York University, years ago, I was allowed to cherry-pick film courses I wanted to take, but I was a few years too late to attend Martin Scorsese’s classes, which I’m told were amazing. When I started teaching at USC fourteen years ago, I heard that Nina Foch was a longtime faculty member but didn’t give it any further thought. I’d always admired her work on film, but I had no ambition to become an actor.

Only now do I realize what I missed out on. Fortunately, dedicated USC alumnus Randal Kleiser, who took Foch’s class when he was a student and later became a close friend, persuaded fellow grad George Lucas to bankroll the taping of an entire semester’s worth of classes in 2002. Kleiser has now culled through 400 hours of lectures and put together a two-disc DVD set called The Nina Foch Course for Filmmakers and Actors, which has been released under the auspices of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. These classes opened doors of understanding for countless writers, directors, producers, singers, animators, and of course, actors.

But don’t take my word for it. Go to, where you can see and hear testimonials from a wide range of industry professionals, ranging from directors like Ed Zwick, Amy Heckerling, and John Singleton to such talented performers as Julie Andrews and Barry Manilow.  Andrews asked Foch to critique her concert appearances, and says she was “a tough teacher, but in the best sense… Occasionally she broke down my song lyrics, and she was phenomenal; she gave me a whole new perspective. She broke down the lyrics to ‘Come Rain or Come Shine.’ I was wondering how to sing it; it’s not a song that this white-bread lady would normally sing. She said, ‘Make it about the theater,’ and it became one of the best things I did in my concert performances.” Barry Manilow says she taught him “how to act a pop song. For thirty years I have been able to make these songs as fresh as if I’ve never sung them before, and it’s all because of Nina.”

I can’t tell you how many visiting directors, when asked for advice by my students, offer the same answer: “Take acting classes and learn how to communicate with actors.” That’s what Nina Foch offered, and thanks to this DVD release, her valuable lessons are still available to one and all.

HOME THEATER FORUM, April 26, 2011

This may be a bit out of the loop of Movies and Television, but I strongly recommend it. Bankrolled by George Lucas, THE NINA FOCH COURSE FOR FILMMAKERS AND ACTORS is a three hour, two disc dvd culled from 200 hours of footage from Nina Foch's legendary courses at the USC school of Cinematic Arts.z

This goes far beyond "show business," and it certainly transcends what you might expect from the description of it that you'll find at but this is as compelling a seminar on psychology, art, writing. education, courtroom, negotiation, workplace, body language, and common sense as you'll ever find.  If I have one regret, the movies never tapped into Ms. Foch's real talents.

Her signature role is perhaps MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, but except for her penultimate tv appearances as Ducky's mother on two episodes of NCIS and a 1963 "The Virginian," her genuinely wicked comedy abilities have never been displayed until here.  I highly recommend this (and there is a wealth of anecdotal material in the course).


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