A Bad Week in the Literary World

The writer Norman Mailer passed away last weekend. Last night came news of the death of Ira Levin.

Mr. Levin never became a household name, and his output was scarce at best - seven novels, the first of which was published 54 years ago, but chances are that anyone reading this blog will recognize his work. His first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, was published in 1953 when Levin was just 24 years old. Three years later it was filmed, giving Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner their best early roles. A tepid remake was released in 1991.

Among Ira Levin's other works: The cult classic Rosemary's Baby, which was also made into a film; The Stepford Wives, filmed twice and, like Rosemary's Baby, spawned one or more TV movie sequels; The Boys From Brazil, and Deathtrap, which began as a Broadway play.

It's not many authors who can say that most of their books were made into movies (two of them twice). Considering the financial successes of his books, it's no wonder that Levin didn't write more.

He once remarked that because he authored Rosemary's Baby he felt responsible for the string of 1970s Hollywood movies about the Devil (the most prominent of which were The Exorcist and The Omen. He added, no doubt with a twinkle in his eye, "Of course, I didn't send any of the royalties back."


shelia said...

This was sad to hear. I must admit that I've seen the movies but haven't read any of the books.

bettye griffin said...

You're not alone. I haven't read any of the books either, but I do intend to get hold of a copy of A Kiss Before Dying, which I always thought was a good mystery story.

Adrianne said...

I guess that poses a good question. If you wrote something that would finacial set you (J.K. Rowling-style) would you quit working? One person I'm curious about is Harper Lee. Who writes one book and stops? Some times I wonder if its true on whether Truman Capote more than helped his old friend and the book became a monster hit-there was little something more to the jealous that ended their friendship. Oh, dear. I think I went off subject.

bettye griffin said...

No worries about going off subject, this blog is to express your thoughts about whatever.

Ira Levin did dabble in other things besides novels. He began his career as a television writer, writing for shows like Playhouse 90. Although Deathtrap was his most successful play, he did more playwrighting as well. He adapted the novel No Time For Sergeants into a Broadway hit. He also wrote the book and the lyrics for a musical called Drat! The Cat! (about a female cat burglar in Victorian times). The show closed after just 8 performances, but he provided the lyrics for the song "He Touched Me," which was covered by several recording artists, most notably Barbra Streisand . . . and I remember it on a perfume commercial some years back ("He tooooooooouched me . . . He TOOOOOOOOOUCHED me . . . and then SUD-DEN-LY, NO-THING . . . NOTHING was THE SAAAAAAAAME.") You get the picture. Lots of dramatic crescendos (another payday for him, I might add, even if he had to share it with the guy who composed the music).

I don't have the creativeness this man clearly possessed, so I'd keep writing books in the face of great success. But for someone with multiple interests, it must be a wonderful thing to be able to try your hand at other interests, knowing that you'll be well taken care of from your books selling tens of thousands of copies, film rights, etc.

Interesting theory about Harper Lee. I've always thought that one-book phenomenon strange myself . . .