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Obituary Profiles of Entertainment Industry Figures And The Legacies They Leave Behind


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Hollywood Screenwriter Peter Viertel Dies At Age 86

Deborah Kerr and Peter ViertelDeborah Kerr and Peter Viertel 

Friday, November 9-------Less than three weeks after his second wife, actress Deborah Kerr, passed away, news comes from Marbella, Spain that her second husband, screenwriter and novelist Peter Viertel, has died at the age of 86. Peter Viertel was a noted author and screenwriter who plumbed his relationships with the aristocracy of Hollywood, including Greta Garbo, John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and others, to produce provocative works of fiction and memoir.

The author of at least 9 novels and 11 feature films, Mr. Viertel deftly used his movie work to fuel and enhance his literary output, and vice versa. He tis probably best known for his screenplay of the 1951 film THE AFRICAN QUEEN, directed by old-friend John Huston, and starring Humphrey Bogart (in his only Oscar winning performance) and Katharine Hepburn. The film was a major hit and usually ranks high among the public's favorite Hollywood films of all time. Viertel's often bitter experience as an on-the-set script doctor for the film served as the basis for a novel about the making of a very similar African film, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART, published in 1953. That novel was turned into a film in 1990, both directed by and starring Clint Eastwood (with Viertel assisting on the screenplay adaptation). Another life-long friend was the novelist Ernest Hemingway. The scenarist adapted two of Hemingway's novels for the big screen, including THE SUN ALSO RISES (1957) and THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1958).

Peter Viertel was born in Dresden, Germany, on Nov. 16, 1920. Six years later, he moved to Hollywood, where his father, Berthold Viertel, worked as a film director and screenwriter. Peter Viertel’s mother, the former Salka Steuermann, was screenwriter for many of the films of Greta Garbo. His mother was infamous for hosting a Sunday afternoon salon in Santa Monica, where the young Viertel met such luminaries as Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann. After attending Dartmouth College and the UCLA, Viertel wrote his first novel in 1940. He then served as a Marine in the Pacific during World War II, and sold a screenplay of his experiences to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that became the wartime film BATAAN (1944), starring Robert Taylor.

Viertel travelled in Hollywood's elite circles. In his 1992 memoir DANGEROUS FRIENDS, he tells stories about his encounters with such luminaries as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Orson Welles, and many others. Known as a womanizer, he was married three times, lastly to actress Deborah Kerr. He has been in retirement for the past decade in their home in southern Spain. The film community has lost one of its last remaining links to the glamour of the Old Hollywood

Sandy Mandelberger, In Memoriam Director

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IN MEMORIAM

Obituary Profiles of Entertainment Industry Figures And The Legacies They Leave Behind


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