Happy 105th Birthday Sidney Sheldon

Today is the 105th birthday of the writer Sidney Sheldon. He wrote theatre plays, screen plays, television scripts, and novels. He wrote the scripts for Hart to Hart! The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

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NAME: Sidney Sheldon
DATE OF BIRTH: 11-Feb-1917
DATE OF DEATH: 30-Jan-2007
OSCAR for Best Screenplay 1948 for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
TONY 1959 for Redhead (co-author)
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME 1988 at 6739 Hollywood Blvd.

BEST KNOWN FOR: Sidney Sheldon was an American writer and producer. Sheldon was prominent in the 1930s, first working on Broadway plays and then in motion pictures, notably writing the successful comedy The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer which earned him an Oscar in 1948.

Sheldon was born Sidney Schechtel in Chicago, Illinois. His parents, of Russian Jewish ancestry, were Ascher “Otto” Schechtel, manager of a jewelry store, and Natalie Marcus. At 10, Sidney made his first sale, US$5 for a poem. During the Depression, he worked at a variety of jobs, and after graduating from East High School, he attended Northwestern University on a scholarship and contributed short plays to drama groups. He had to drop out after six months during the Depression era to help support his family. Sheldon enlisted in the military during World War II as a pilot in the War Training Service, a branch of the Army Air Corps, His unit was disbanded before he saw any action.

In 1937, Sheldon moved to Hollywood, California, where he reviewed scripts and collaborated on a number of B movies.

Sheldon began writing musicals for the Broadway stage while continuing to write screenplays for both MGM Studios and Paramount Pictures. He earned a reputation as a prolific writer; for example, at one time he had three musicals on Broadway: a rewritten The Merry Widow, Jackpot, and Dream with Music. Sheldon received a Tony Award in 1959 for his musical Redhead, starring Gwen Verdon.

Sheldon’s success on Broadway brought him back to Hollywood where his first assignment was The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1947. He was one of the writers on the screenplay for the 1948 musical film Easter Parade and sole writer for the 1950 musical film Annie Get Your Gun, both of which featured the songs of Irving Berlin.

When television became the new popular medium, Sheldon decided to try his hand in it. “I suppose I needed money,” he remembered. “I met Patty Duke one day at lunch. So I produced The Patty Duke Show, and I did something nobody else in TV ever did. For seven years, I wrote almost every single episode of the series.”

After seeing Duke’s performance as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962), Sheldon had the idea to cast the actress as the two sitcom leads: identical cousins, Patty and Cathy Lane.

In 1965, Sheldon created, produced and wrote I Dream of Jeannie starring Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman. He wrote all but two dozen scripts in five years, sometimes using three pseudonyms (Mark Rowane, Allan Devon, Christopher Golato) while simultaneously writing scripts for The Patty Duke Show. He later admitted that he did this because he felt his name was appearing too often in the credits as creator, producer, copyright owner and writer of these series.

Production for I Dream of Jeannie ended in 1970 after five seasons. It was “During the last year of I Dream of Jeannie, I decided to try a novel,” he said in 1982. “Each morning from 9 until noon, I had a secretary at the studio take all calls. I mean every single call. I wrote each morning — or rather, dictated — and then I faced the TV business.”

In 1970, Sheldon wrote all seventeen episodes of the short-lived series Nancy.

In 1979, Sheldon created and wrote for the series Hart to Hart starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers. The show aired on ABC and ran for five seasons.

In 1969, Sheldon wrote his first novel, The Naked Face, which earned him a nomination for the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America in the category of Best First Novel. His next novel, The Other Side of Midnight, climbed to #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list as did several ensuing novels, a number of which were also made into motion pictures or TV miniseries. His novels often featured determined women who persevere in a tough world run by hostile men. The novels contained a lot of suspense and devices to keep the reader turning the page:

I try to write my books so the reader can’t put them down,” he explained in a 1982 interview. “I try to construct them so when the reader gets to the end of it, he or she has to read just one more chapter. It’s the technique of the old Saturday afternoon serial: leave the guy hanging on the edge of the cliff at the end of the chapter.

Most of his readers were women. Asked why this was the case he said: “I like to write about women who are talented and capable, but most important, retain their femininity. Women have tremendous power — their femininity, because men can’t do without it.” Books were Sheldon’s favorite medium. “I love writing books,” he commented. “Movies are a collaborative medium, and everyone is second-guessing you. When you do a novel you’re on your own. It’s a freedom that doesn’t exist in any other medium.” He was the author of 18 novels which have sold over 300 million copies.

Three years before his death, The Los Angeles Times called Sheldon “Mr. Blockbuster” and “prince of potboilers.”

Sheldon was first married to Jane Kaufman Harding (1945–1946). Later he wrote “Regretfully, in less than a month, Jane and I realized we had made a mistake. … We spent the next nine months trying in vain to make the marriage work.”

He was married for 30 years to Jorja Curtright, a stage and film actress who later became an interior designer. She played Suzanne in the 1955 film, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, and appeared in a Season One episode of I Dream of Jeannie as Madame Zolta. Curtright died of a heart attack in 1985. Their daughter, Mary Sheldon, became a novelist as well.

Sheldon married Alexandra Joyce Kostoff, a former child actress in Las Vegas in 1989.

Sheldon struggled with bipolar disorder for years; he contemplated suicide at 17 (talked out of it by his father, who found him with a bottle of whiskey and several bottles of sleeping pills), as detailed in his autobiography published in 2005, The Other Side of Me.

A resident of Palm Springs, California, Sheldon died on January 30, 2007 of pneumonia at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, 12 days before his 90th birthday. His remains were cremated, the ashes interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Films as writer
Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case (1941)
She’s in the Army (1942)
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
Easter Parade (1948)
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)
Three Guys Named Mike (1951)
Rich, Young and Pretty (1951)
No Questions Asked (1952)
Just This Once (1952)
Dream Wife (1953) (also director)
Remains to be Seen (1953)
You’re Never Too Young (1955)
Pardners (1956)
Anything Goes (1956)
The Birds and the Bees (1956)
The Buster Keaton Story (1957)
All in a Night’s Work (1961)
Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)
The Other Side of Midnight (1977)
Bloodline (1979)

The Patty Duke Show
I Dream of Jeannie
Hart to Hart (co-wrote pilot, 1979)
Rage of Angels (1983 miniseries, based on his book)
Rage of Angels: The Story Continues (1986 miniseries, based on his book, a sequel to Rage of Angels)
Master of the Game (1984 miniseries, based on his book)
If Tomorrow Comes (1986 miniseries, based on his book)
Windmills of the Gods (1988 miniseries, based on his book)
Memories of Midnight (1991 miniseries, based on his book)

The Buster Keaton Story (May-1957)
Dream Wife (19-Jun-1953)

Author of books:
The Naked Face (1970, novel)
The Other Side of Midnight (1974, novel)
A Stranger in the Mirror (1975, novel)
Bloodline (1977, novel)
Rage of Angels (1980, novel)
Master of the Game (1982, novel)
If Tomorrow Comes (1985, novel)
Windmills of the Gods (1987, novel)
The Sands of Time (1988, novel)
Memories of Midnight (1990, novel)
The Doomsday Conspiracy (1991, novel)
Nothing Lasts Forever (1994, novel)
Morning, Noon & Night (1995, novel)
The Best Laid Plans (1997, novel)
Tell Me Your Dreams (1998, novel)
The Sky is Falling (2000, novel)
The Other Side of Me (2005, memoir)

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