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Sue Marx

Sue Marx, 92, of Birmingham, Michigan, died on 17 July 2023.

The Funeral was held at IRA KAUFMAN CHAPEL on Wednesday, 19 July 2023 at 1:00 PM .

Rabbi Joseph Krakoff officiated.

Click to watch a video of the recorded service.

Interment at Clover Hill Park Cemetery.

Click for Directions for Cemetery

The family of Sue Marx will be gathering through the evening of Thursday, July 20 at the residence, 970 Oak Avenue, Birmingham MI 48009.

Family and friends will be gathering on Wednesday and Thursday from 5:00-8:00 p.m. Religious services will be held each evening at 7:00 p.m.

Click for Directions to Shiva

Sue Marx, an essentially self-taught professional filmmaker who stunned Hollywood by winning an Academy Award in 1987 for her documentary short film, Young at Heart, died July 17, 2023, at her home in Birmingham, Michigan. That film, perhaps the highlight of her long and varied media career, chronicled the love story and marriage of her own widowed father, then in his 80s, and another widowed artist. The film is still often shown and studied today.

Years later, she loved to tell the story about how, after she triumphantly yelled “Hooray for Michigan!” to a national television audience when presented with her Oscar, a grumpy Detroit Mayor Coleman Young later told her she should have said “Detroit” instead. “Yes, Mr. Mayor,” she told him, and explained that she wanted to stretch out her brief time in the spotlight, and “Michigan has three syllables and Detroit has only two.”

Marx made over 200 films during her storied career. Her topics ranged widely, from artists like John Glick to architecture; from legendary Michigan author and crusty Supreme Court Justice John Voelker to The Relaxation Station, made to help children in crisis cope with stress and anxiety.

Marx, who was 92, founded Sue Marx Films in 1980 after a career as a professional photographer whose lens captured nearly every famous person (and some not so famous) who lived in or visited the Detroit area in the 1960s and 70s, from the Kennedys to a young Bob Seger to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her images have endured: Three years ago, the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Center mounted an exhibit: Photographs by Sue Marx: Images from History: People who Defined Detroit in the 1960s, which managed to be a success despite the pandemic.

Remarkably, nothing in her early life hinted that she might become a photojournalist and filmmaker, let alone an Oscar-winning one. During much of her early childhood, her family might have been hard-pressed to afford tickets to a movie. Suzanne Elaine Gothelf was born on Nov. 17, 1930 in Yonkers, N.Y. to Louis and Leona Gothelf, who emigrated as children to America from what is now Belarus. The Great Depression was deepening when Marx was born, and her parents began working in a bakery to survive. During the New Deal, the WPA found her father work painting theater sets in Milwaukee, where her late and only sister Vivian was born. Eventually, the family settled in East Chicago, Indiana, where her mother managed hotels and apartment buildings. “We were dirt poor,” she later said.

Somehow, her parents managed to send her to Indiana University, where she majored in language arts and was a member of Sigma Delta Tau. After graduating in 1952, she moved to Detroit to live with an aunt and uncle, and became a teacher in Oak Park. She soon met Stanley “Hank” Marx, the owner of a lead smelting company, who she always called “the greatest man in the world.” Hank and Sue were married Dec. 19, 1953, and were a happy and intensely loving partnership until his death in October, 2007. Terry, the first of her three daughters, was born in 1955. Jane followed in 1956 and Elizabeth in 1959. While raising her daughters, Marx earned a Masters’ in social psychology at Wayne State University. Soon afterwards, Marx began working as a model. What she didn’t know is that this would lead to the next phase of her life.

“I met some of the photographers and got interested in photography, and was so enthralled that I became a photographer and a photojournalist.” She had a thriving freelance career before she was approached by WWJ-TV (now WDIV) in 1970 to produce and direct a groundbreaking weekly television show, Profiles in Black, the first real effort by local media to tell the stories and portray the lives of the metropolitan Detroit area’s African American residents. Marx savored this work as part of her continuing commitment to Detroit in light of the city’s changing demographics.

After the television program ended nearly a decade later, she opened Sue Marx Films in Detroit. While she excelled in making her own documentaries, she also produced films, commercials and promotional and educational videos for a wide variety of clients. Marx produced films for more than thirty years. In addition to the Oscar, her numerous awards include more than 20 Emmys, 11 Cine Golden Eagles, and other major honors from numerous film festivals, plus an Award of Excellence from American Women in Radio and Television (now the Alliance for Women in Media). Though she often claimed that she didn’t know anything about art, her films on art and artists are now in the film collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In recognition of her achievements, Marx was invited to join the International Women’s Forum - Michigan, and also received an entrepreneurial award from Harvard University and a distinguished women’s award from Northwood University. She was recognized and honored by virtually every media outlet in Metropolitan Detroit, including being named Michiganian of the Year in 1990 by the Detroit News. Perhaps the honor which meant most to her was that, as an Oscar winner, she remained a lifelong voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Survivors include her daughters, Terry Marx and her husband Stephen Arpadi, of New York City, Jane Marx and her partner Lena Weiss, of Albuquerque, NM and Liz Marx, of Santa Monica, CA, grandchildren Adina and Charlotte Marx-Arpadi and Jude Marx, and Sue’s special angel, Teresa Pekala.

Those interested in learning more about Sue Marx’s life and work are invited to visit her website, http://www.suemarxfilms.com

It is suggested that those who wish to further honor the memory of Sue Marx may do so by making a contribution to:

Wayne State University Math Corps
656 W. Kirby, Room 1311
Detroit, MI 48202
Click to Visit Charity Website

Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network
6555 West Maple
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
Click to Visit Charity Website