Sidney Sheldon

  • Birth Name: Sidney Schechtel
  • Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • Died: January 30, 2007
  • Profession: Screenwriter, Producer, Director, Novelist
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Biography

Although he became an international sensation as a novelist in the '70s, Sheldon already had three decades of showbiz success behind him. After launching his career as a Hollywood script reader while still in his teens, he initially made his mark on Broadway, penning plays and books for musicals and eventually winning a Tony for his work on the 1959 musical Redhead starring Gwen Verdon. But by then he was already an established screenwriter, having won an Academy Award for the 1947 screwball comedy The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. While he collaborated on a handful of other A-list projects post-Oscar — he cowrote the scripts for the classic movie musicals Easter Parade, Annie Get Your Gun and The Barkleys of Broadway (the last Fred Astaire-Ginger Rodgers pairing) — he spent most of the '50s churning out screenplays for forgettable, low-grade fare (The Birds and the Bees). His one attempt to do it all by writing, directing and producing, the 1957 biopic The Buster Keaton Story, went bust. In the '60s, Sheldon turned to television and made a splash as a writer on The Patty Duke Show. But his next series, the frothy fantasy I Dream of Jeannie, which he created, was a resounding hit, living on in syndication. During his last year with the show, Sheldon, never one to rest on his laurels, began writing his first book. Although The Naked Face was initially rejected by five publishers, when it was ultimately released in 1969, it went on to sell several million copies and snagged the neophyte novelist an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He authored 18 popular page-turners, which invariably featured smart but still sexy women as protagonists, and turned Sidney Sheldon into a literary brand name. The novel The Other Side of Midnight became a 1977 film starring Susan Sarandon while several of his novels were adapted as TV miniseries. By the end of the '90s he had sold 300 million copies and had been translated into 71 languages. He still found time to dabble in television, creating the popular Hart to Hart series and also producing a number of adaptations of his books (Rage of Angels, Memories of Midnight, The Sands of Time). In his twilight years he remained amazingly prolific, even publishing the 2005 memoir The Other Side of Me before he died of complications arising from pneumonia in January 2007.

Fast Facts

  • His parents both dropped out of school during their elementary years.
  • Suffered from bipolar disorder, which was successfully treated as an adult. 
  • Served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
  • Was the writer of three hit musicals running simultaneously on Broadway in 1944: the revival of The Merry Widow, Jackpot and Dream With Music.
  • Secured a job as a script reader for Universal Pictures by writing a summary of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men that he sent to all of the major studios.
  • Introduced to his first wife, actress Jorja Curtright, by Zsa Zsa Gabor.
  • His first book, 1970's The Naked Face, was originally rejected by five publishers; it went on to sell several million copies and win a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award.
  • Having sold more than 300 million copies, nearly every one of his novels has been adapted into either a big-screen feature or a TV miniseries.
  • Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988.

Awards

  • 1949, Writers Guild Awards — Musical: Winner
  • 1959, Tony — Musical: Winner
  • 1963, Writers Guild Awards — Musical: Nominee
  • 1951, Writers Guild Awards — Musical: Winner
  • 1967, Emmy — Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy: Nominee
  • 1947, Oscar — Best Writing (Original Screenplay): Winner

Relationships

  • Mary Sheldon — Daughter
  • Alexandra Kostoff Sheldon — Wife
  • Natalie Sheldon — Mother
  • Otto Sheldon — Father
  • Jorja Curtright — Wife (deceased)
  • Richard Sheldon — Brother

College

  • Attended Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States
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