Friday, January 22, 2010

Erich Segal R.I.P.

Erich Segal, the writer who co-wrote Yellow Submarine and and novels such as The Class and Doctors, passed on January 17 at the age of 72. The cause was a heart attack.

Eric Segal was born in Brooklyn on June 16, 1937. He earned a bachelor's degree at Harvard in 1958 and a master's degree a year later. He received a PhD in 1965. He taught the classics at the beginning of his career at Harvard, but moved onto Yale and taught at Princeton as well. While working towards his PhD, Segal wrote music and lyrics for revues. He also wrote musicals such as Voulez-Vous (which only lasted five nights) and Sing, Muse (which only lasted thirty nine nights). It was in 1967 that animated cartoon producer Al Brodax recruited Segal to write the bulk of the script on Yellow Submarine.

At the time Yellow Submarine was not the only screen play on which Segal was working. He had also written a screenplay that was essentially an old fashioned tearjerker. With the screenplay finished, he found it rejected by every single studio. Segal then rewrote the screenplay as the novel Love Story. Published in 1970, it proved to be a bestseller, although one that was raked over the coals by critics. The movie adaptation, released later that year, also proved to be a hit. Segal also wrote the screenplay  for R.PM. (also released in 1970) and the film adaptation of Robert L. Simons' Jennifer on My Mind (released in 1971).

Erich Segal would go onto write other works of fiction. including the children's book Fairy Tale, the sequel to Love Story (Oliver's Stoy), Man, Woman and Child (which was adapted as a movie in 1983). The Class, Doctors, and Prizes. He also wrote several scholarly works such as Roman laughter : the comedy of Plautus and The Death of Comedy. He edited Greek Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism, Oxford Readings in Aristophanes, and Oxford Readings in Menander, Plautus, and Terence.

Erich Segal was a very well respected professor in the classics. His book The Death of Comedy covered the genre from ancient Greece to modern times. As a writer there are many who are apt to think of Love Story, perhaps not the best book for which to be remembered (a book even Segal did not take seriously). That having been said, he also wrote the screenplay to Yellow Submarine, one of the greatest animated films ever made, and several other books that, if they did not sell as well as Love Story, were much better received. While many might remember Segal as the writer of Love Story, then, he should perhaps be remembered for much more.

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