Sunday, February 8, 2015

Godspeed Stewart Stern

Stewart Stern, perhaps best known for writing the screenplay for Rebel Without a Cause (1955), died February 2 2015 at the age of 92 after a long battle with cancer.

Stewart Stern was born on March 22 1922 in New York City. An uncle by marriage was Adolph Zukor, the founder of Paramount Pictures. Mr. Stern attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City. During World War II he enlisted in the United States Army. At the Battle of the Bulge he earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Following the war Stewart Stern worked as a dialogue director on such films as The Big Fix (1947), Out of the Blue (1947), Railroaded! (1947), T-Men (1947), Man from Texas (1948), The Cobra Strikes (1948), The Amazing Mr. X (1948), Hollow Triumph (1948), and He Walked by Night (1948).

It was 1951 that Mr. Stern received his first credit for a screenplay; it was on the documentary short subject "Benjy" in 1951. In the Fifties he wrote the screenplays for the films Teresa (1951), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), The Rack (1956), The James Dean Story (1957), and Thunder in the Sun (1959). He also wrote episodes of the television shows The Gulf Playhouse, Goodyear Playhouse, and Playhouse 90.

In the Sixties and the Seventies Stewart Stern wrote the screenplays for the films The Outsider (1961), The Ugly American (1963), Rachel, Rachel (1968), The Last Movie (1971), and Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973). He wrote the teleplays for a television adaptation of The Glass Menagerie and the TV movie A Christmas to Remember, as well as the mini-series Sybill.

Mr. Stern later moved to Seattle and taught screenwriting at the University of Washington. He co-founded the non-profit organisation The Film School with John Jacobsen and taught there as well. He wrote the bookNo Tricks in My Pocket: Paul Newman Directs, published in 1989.

Stewart Stern was notable for writing screenplays with a good deal of psychological depth. His characters were always three-dimensional creations, often with complex motives and thought processes. Indeed, in none of Mr. Stern's films are there clear-cut villains or clear-cut heroes. He always presented his characters as realistic human beings with their own agendas.

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