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Academy Award Winning Playwright Horton Foote Dies at 92

Posted: Mar 05, 2009

Texas born playwright Horton Foote died peacefully in Hartford, Connecticut, yesterday (March 4th) just ten days short of his 93rd birthday. Foote, who divided his time between New York and Wharton, Texas, was staying with his actress daughter Hallie. Hallie Foote is appearing in a stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird at Hartford Stage, one of the leading resident theatres in the country

I met Horton Foote in November of 1985 when he came to Athens State University to participate in a seminar about filmmaking. I don’t think I have ever met a kinder, gentler person. Soft spoken and elegant, the epitome of a southern gentleman, Foote was the antithesis of the swashbuckling James Dickey who had been my house guest during the writers’ conference the previous year. Frank Rizzo of the Hartford Courant makes the following observation about Foote: “His gentle soul, respect for others and unsentimental but deep love of home and family remind us of our better selves.”

Foote received his first academy award for his 1962 screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and his second academy award in 1983 for Tender Mercies. His play The Young Man From Atlanta won a Pulitzer in 1995. His screenplay The Trip to Bountiful earned Geraldine Page an Oscar for her performance as Mrs. Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who is determined to return to the small town where she grew up. Both Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall won Oscars for their roles in the films To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender Mercies, respectively.. Foote’s plays have been produced both on and off Broadway and his screen adaptations of both his own and others' works garnered him much critical acclaim.

--Penne J. Laubenthal

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PenneElk says...

Absolutely! I failed to mention in my dispatch that one of the many highlights of the seminar was having the opportunity to see and discuss both "Tomorrow" and "Barn Burning"--Foote's superb film adaptations of two Faulkner short stories. Faulkner's story "Tomorrow" can be found in a collection of six mystery stories called "Knight's Gambit" published in 1949. "Barn Burning" is widely anthologized.

swampland says...

This is such sad news! Horton Foote remains as one of our most important voices in screenwriting. Tender Mercies marked a high point in Robert Duvall's career which is saying something. Let's also not forget that Foote adapted a William Faulkner short story into Tomorrow which also starred a much young Duvall. This is an amazing piece of work as well.

cgregg says...

I will look on the Internet for the screen play. Thanks!

PenneElk says...

As far as I know, "The Young Man From Atlanta" is still a stage play and has never been made into a film--although Foote did adapt his own plays for the screen. Foote's first love was the legitimate theater, as we say, but he was a master of the art of adapting novels, short stories, and plays to film. Early in his career, he regretted the lack of control that a writer has over his work once it gets in the hands of a film director or producer (a sentiment he shared with James Dickey--re: "Deliverance"). However, as time passed, he apparently gained more and more control over his work. Thanks so much for your comment, my friend.

cgregg says...

I had not realized that Foote wrote The Trip to Bountiful. The three films named in your tribute are all on my lifetime list of favorites. I will be looking for The Young Man from Atlanta, a title that is new to me. Horton Foote is a great loss. (I wish it were possible to write titles in italics or to underline them in our comments.)

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