( b. Mar 14, 1916 Wharton, Texas, USA - d. Mar 04, 2009 Hartford, Connecticut, USA ) Male
Horton Foote, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards, who chronicled a wistful American odyssey through the 20th century in plays and films mostly set in a small town in Texas and who left a literary legacy as one of the country’s foremost storytellers, died on Wednesday in Hartford. He was 92.
Albert Horton Foote Jr., one of three sons of Albert Horton Foote and the former Hallie Brooks, was born March 14, 1916, in Wharton, Tex., a town about 40 miles southwest of Houston. His father was a haberdasher and his mother taught piano.
Mr. Foote spent two years studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in California, then went to New York where he continued his studies with Tamara Daykarhanova, a Russian émigré, and joined Mary Hunter’s American Actors Company. After seeing him perform an improvisation inspired by his life in Texas, choreographer Agnes De Mille encouraged Mr. Foote to write. His first play was a one-act called “Wharton Dance,” about the Friday-night dances in his hometown. He wrote the lead part for himself. The company performed the play in an evening of one-acts. Foote’s next playwriting endeavor was “Texas Town,” stage by the American Actors Company in 1941, with Mr. Foote in the lead. Brooks Atkinson, the critic for The Times, was in attendance and gave high praise to Mr. Foote’s play .
After World War II, Mr. Foote and his wife Lillian moved to Washington to run the King Smith School along with Vincent Donehue during which time Mr. Foote opened the King Smith theater to all races, the first integrated audiences in the nation’s capital.
Mr. Foote returned to New York in 1950, just as television was beginning to command America’s attention and producers were recruiting writers to work for it. He went to work for Fred Coe at NBC, and his first assignment was to help write weekly half-hour episodes of “The Gabby Hayes Show.” In his spare time he continued to write plays. One, “The Chase,” in 1952, introduced Kim Stanley to Broadway, although it did not have great critical success.
Mr. Coe shortly signed Mr. Foote to a contract to write nine one-hour dramas for television. Among them was “The Trip to Bountiful” which would have several incarnations over Mr. Foote’s life, including a version on Broadway, a revival Off Broadway, a London production and, three decades later, a 1985 movie for which Mr. Foote was nominated for the screenplay. Mr. Foote’s other TV work included several teleplays for “Playhouse 90,” including adaptations of the Faulkner stories “Old Man” and “Tomorrow.” Faulkner was so impressed with the latter that he offered to split the publication royalties with him.
Mr. Foote’s work in TV led to his first film projects among them an adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for which Mr. Foote received his first Academy Award. Gregory Peck won best actor for his performance as the lawyer, Atticus Finch, and the film introduced to the screen a young actor named Robert Duvall as the eccentric Boo Radley. Mr. Foote had another film success with “Baby, the Rain Must Fall” (1965), a reworking of his play “The Traveling Lady” starring Steve McQueen.
Subsequent Hollywood ventures such as “The Chase” and “Hurry Sundown” (1967), were less successful and Mr. Foote moved to New Hampshire and even contemplated giving up writing. It was after the death of his parents that Mr. Foote began the nine-play cycle called “The Orphans’ Home,” inspired by his father’s family and spanning 1902 to 1928. The first of these plays were staged in New York by Herbert Berghof, who with his wife, Uta Hagen, ran the H-B Theater workshop. This marked the start of the Foote revival.
While working on “The Orphans’ Home” Foote began “Tender Mercies,” which was written specifically with Robert Duvall in mind and who went on to win the best-actor Academy Award. Mr. Foote received his second Oscar for the screenplay.
Mr. Foote returned to writing movies, but this time he purs